Wayman Barnes 6.5.03
20 Questions with Larry Colker
#1. Why Lizards?
I wish I had a good answer. Lizards appear in a handful of my poems and appear to be totemic, but I have not penetrated my subconscious enough to know what they symbolize. If pressed, I'd say some kind of spirit of freedom, elusiveness, survival, wisdom. (Sounds like Yoda, I'm afraid—but then, he looks like a lizard to me.)
#2. What is your favorite Lizard?
I like the way chameleons' eyes work independently of each other and can look backwards. Their visual system must be very cool.
#3. When did you begin writing poetry?
At 14, when I was recuperating from a hand operation in a hospital. I had brought A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad from home to read. Both the strictness of the form and the tone (wry melancholy) struck a chord in me at that age. In retrospect, I'd say the allure for me was the simultaneous intellectual puzzle-solving (to fit a strict form) and condensed emotional power—Apollonian and Dionysian rolled into one. Almost everything I wrote for the next five or six years (mostly addressed to a series of girlfriends) was derivative Housman.
#4. Do you remember the first time you referred to yourself as a poet? How did that feel?
When referring to myself, I usually say "I write poems." I believe it's up to others to say whether or not I'm a poet. I would like to be a poet, yes.
#5. How did you get involved with the Redondo Poets?
I was on the lookout for poetry readings near where I lived, and I stumbled onto a workshop led by Jerry Hicks and Jim Doane at Insomniac in Redondo Beach.
#6. Did the Redondo Poets or the Coffee Cartel reading come first?
Redondo Poets came first. I was not part of the original Redondo Poets group. After Insomniac closed, the group moved to a couple of other locations and then to Coffee Cartel. I just showed up at their workshops and readings.
#7. How long have you been hosting the reading?
fact that there are plenty of books at our venue.
#10. Is it true that you have a new book (Plug away)?
Yes. About half of the poems appeared in my 1997 chapbook, At the Curb, Car Waiting, Boy Standing and about half are newer. So I think of it as a revised, expanded, and retitled new edition of the previous book (there were only 25 copies of the 1997 book). The title is now What the Lizard Knows. What I think makes it especially appealing is that it has been so beautifully designed and illustrated by a friend and talented graphic artist, Clea Benson, whom I met at a Summer Poetry in Idyllwild workshop. I am hoping that readers will find it worth the $12 price. It's a limited edition of 200 copies.
#11. How can we, the people, get one?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and request a copy, providing address information, and I'll mail the book. I'll also be bringing copies to the Poem.X reading on July 18 (Barnes & Noble on the Third Street Promenade) and the Tebot Bach reading on August 29 (at Golden West College in Huntington Beach). Or come to the Redondo Poets reading at Coffee Cartel any Tuesday evening. Check the Redondo Poets Web site www.redondopoets.com for directions and schedule of featured poets. I plan to add a link to the Web site that will bring up information about the book.
#13. Has the girl with the pierced lip ever heard your poem about her?
Not from me. But she has seen a copy of the handwritten original. That poem came from an exercise at Idyllwild, in Charles Harper Webb's workshop class. We each wrote a "secret" about ourself on a slip of paper, which we then drew at random out of a hat. I got "I have a crush on the girl with the pierced lower lip." The person who had put that in the hat was very happy with the outcome, and showed it to the object of her (yes, her) affection. I don't know what happened after that.
#14. What is your favorite brand of cigarettes?
Jenem. (It's Yiddish for "the other guy's.")
#15. Least favorite?
#17. What is the question you are most afraid to be asked?
#18. What is the answer to that question?
"That one." (I'm pleading the Fifth because I do not want to get arrested.)
#19. ?noitseuq siht daer uoy naC
.werbeH daer ot nrael ot dah I sa egatnavda thgils a evah I .seY
#20. Would you like to thank the Academy?
Yes, several in fact: I would like to thank Deerfield Academy for the emphasis its English department put on vocabulary, and the Academy of Plato for making the University of Chicago possible, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for making Brendan Constantine possible—or at least solvent. And I would like to thank LitRave for being something so innovative, energizing, and fun on the LA poetry scene. And I of course would like to thank the Muses.
For more info: redondopoets.com
Marie Lecrivain 5.28.03
Un-urban Open Mike
There are dozens of readings in Los Angeles, and I have yet to get to most of them. Given the distance and preferences of poets for their favorite venues, here is one to consider: the open - mike reading at the Unurban CoffeeHouse in Santa Monica on Wednesday nights.
The reading is run by a trio of hosts; Tony, the lovely Laura, and Adam (Bresson). Sign-ups are at 7:30, but the trio is very accommodating to those late stragglers who show up 1/2 hour before the reading is over (note: please don't abuse this). Each person gets about 5-7 minutes reading time, and poetry virgins are especially welcome (lots of clapping for those brave enough to get on stage, and lots of encouragement to come back).
It's a very relaxing atmosphere. Most poets are called up by first name, but don't let the informality fool you, there' s a lot of interesting, weird and very cool poetry being presented here each week.
A sample of the evening's fare:
Greg - "When You Speak of Colors I Don't Listen Anymore."
FrancEyE - "If Someday" (from Sharon Olds' Unswept Room), "In My Dreams.".
Marie - "Ten of Fist" from B. D. Love's Water At The Woman's Edge, "The Hunger Striker, the Crucified & the Silent One."
Mike (perennial favorite) - "A Story From the Bible left out by Saint Augustine" (cautionary tale of Ghetto Fab Messiah in a BC Lexus with his girlfriend Mary Magdalene).
Michelle (first-time reader)- a poem with the phrase "scent of a man." (I didn't hear the title, blame the espresso machine.)
Laura (co-host) - "In the Desert," "Harvest Song." (gothic fused with nature, very hard to do and done extremely well with the above-mentioned pieces).
Reverend Dave Wheeler (co-host of the Rapp Saloon) - "All At Once" (this poem will appear in the June 2003 on-line publication of The Blue House), and "Pendulums."
Joey (first-time reader) - "Death of the Raven" (Hommage to Edgar Allen Poe).
Sarah - Anne Sexton's "Her Kind."
"Cubicle" Doug - "Autumn" by Rainer Maria Rilke, " I Am Satisfied There is Satisfaction."(Doug) ( Note: two other poets love to perform Doug's poetry, he must be doing something right!).
Tony (Host, MC) - "Fuck" by Jody Frasico
Nigel (who produced a reading of Dylan Thomas's "Under the Milkwood" the night before) - T.S. Eliott's "The Hollow Men."
Joemil Santos (first-time reader) - "Hello," "Please Excuse Me." (This was the first time I heard slam poetry performed with quiet dignity, but I haven't heard much slam poetry, so I may be wrong).
Lovemando - Doug's "In The Violet Light" and five minutes of channeling Tom Waits (better seen than described).
Kim - "Agamemnon" (an ode to Poem Boy's titanium pool cue).
Barry - A narrative on giving piano lessons to a lonely old woman. (Note: Barry has been with the Un-urban reading for at least 500 years).
Tara - a very short piece that was "blue."
Patrick Mooney aka Poem Boy - (refused to read the lyrics for the song "Baby's Got Back"), "These Damned Walls Are Stronger Still," "Lingua Franca," and "Erato." Patrick has a feature at the Coffee Cartel in Redondo Beach on June 24th. For more info, email email@example.com.
Manuel - "I Hate Fridays."
The hosts introduce a greatest hits selection: 4-6 poets who've read in the first half, get to wow the audience with one poem of their choice in a lightning round that is fast, funny and full of hugs with Adam.
Speaking of Adam, his poem was my favorite:
(Here is an excerpt).
Down on my knees to please the very mine of you
And run my hand over terrains of skin, up & down
Circle sloping, making triangles and squares &
Top me, bottom you, other points ringing out
Soft earthquakes, sum of all sides, bisecting you
Lifting you up, turning you over, proving new theories
Like light only suggests where my tongue goes
Like the bed challenges my pushing with an atom positive or negative
Like for every you there is an equal and opposite me.
If you want to hear the rest, come to the Un-urban.!
Un-urban Open Mike
3300 W. Pico Blvd., Santa Monica
Sign-up 7:30, Starts at 8 PM.
No cover, great chai lattes.
I've been writing reviews for more than three hours straight, and I'll be honest - not only do I not feel like writing another review EVER, but I'm starting to wonder about the whole "poetry thing" in general. (Indication #293 that I'm losing it: excessively colloquial phrases such as "poetry thing.")
I went to the Rapp Saloon in Santa Monica to see Neil Aitken, previously fawned over in this space, who was the featured poet on Friday. First things first: NEW CHAPBOOK. It's self-published (and very well-done, I might add), called The Long Dream Of Exile, and contains such wonderful poems as "Music Lesson," "Long Wind Through The Rocky Mountains," and "Gravity." In addition to reading from the book, he read some older pieces from a previous stay in Taiwan and some brand-new pieces. It was a small turnout - probably because it was the opening night of a long weekend - but those present got to hear a growing talent. Set list: "And Death Shall Have No Dominion" (by Dylan Thomas), "Burials," "Losing The Hawk," "Letter From Home," "Suitcase," "Cubist Film Noir" (my personal favorite from the night), "MFA Rejection Letter," "A Bad Sestina," "Longing," "Long Wind Through Rocky Mountains," "Funeral," "Lost In Northern Saskatchewan," "Gravity," and "Blessing." You can get more information about Neil, read some other poetry, and see his artwork on his website.
Readers: Tom Peterson (who actually didn't READ anything - he looked for a piece of paper in his wallet, and not finding it, returned to his seat), Ray Lanthier (read poems by Hart Crane and James Tate in addition to his own), Angel Perales (one poem was titled "Smells Like Teen," and I think everyone should stop what they are doing and write their own poem with that title), Dana Snow (jokes, jokes, jokes, wocka-wocka), Michael Slobotsky (political piece about Iraq.I thought we were moving on to Syria and Iran?), John Casey, Michael Zeltser (who recited the lyrics to "Stinkfist" by Tool.ummm, first of all, don't recite lyrics, and second, that song is about STICKING YOUR HAND UP SOMEONE'S ASS.), Dave Nordling (.), Mani Suri (funny "found" poem which arranged quotes from Donald Rumsfeld - I never knew he spoke in iambic pentameter, but there you have it), Neil Aitken, "Laughing Larry" (had the good sense not to even make eye contact with me), Vince Garofalo (more Rod Serling shit), Jeanne Spicuzza (did a piece called - no kidding - "Yentl Mary," complete with accent), Marie Lecrivain (read a poem from someone named B.D. Love in addition to her own.when I hear B.D. Love, I think The Nutty Professor), Scott Kestner (read.ver.y.slow.ly), Dave Wheeler.
So guess what people - it's a one-man pledge drive from now on. If you don't start contributing stuff for the site, I'm going on permanent vacation. I see the same faces everywhere, and I know you have internet access - so DO SOMETHING.
With that, I'm going to sleep and try not to think about anything containing words, unless it's my own damn will.
THE UGLY MUG CAFE
Orange. County. Slam. Finals. Ben Trigg, Mindy Nettifee your hosts. The usual set of head-scratching scores from judges. Cover charge from the Ugly Mug -- gee, thanks. The scene is set.shall we get started?
(One observation for longtime readers of this site: While taking notes for this event, I kept thinking of the long-absent LitRave-contributor-on-the-slam-scene Raymond, aka Knowledge, aka The Exorcist. Specifically - how DID he ever manage to take down so many quotes from competitors? I can't even write fast enough to catch titles at regular readings.and slam competitors rarely mention titles. Where did that guy disappear to, anyway?)
To dispense with the suspense right away: The 2003 OC Slam Team is RAC (Rachel McKibbens), Michael Cirelli, Buddy Wakefield, and Mark Gonzales, with Rachel Kann as an alternate. RAC earned top marks all night - no surprise given her painfully honest writing and intense performance skills. Buddy Wakefield was dynamic - it will be interesting to see if he ends up competing for the OC team since he has traveled and competed all around the country this year. (Stay tuned.) Two minor surprises were Michael Cirelli and Mark Gonzales. I went to an early round of the slam and was impressed by Michael's stuff, which struck me as more literate (no offense) than a lot of slam poetry I had heard. It was nice to see him scoring so well in the finals! Mark's scores were surprising only because of the highly charged political content of most of his pieces. (As you probably know, Orange County is not exactly a hotbed of leftist thought.) Still, the judges rewarded his incendiary performance with very high marks. (I had a nice talk with Mark after the competition about the relationship between poetry and politics - very bright, thoughtful guy. I can understand his position that artists ought to be activists.I don't necessarily agree.)
There was a tie for the alternate position after the four rounds were complete, so Katie O'Loughlin and Rachel Kann had to perform a fifth piece to break the tie. Rachel - no stranger to ANYONE between San Luis Obispo and San Diego who has heard of performance poetry - edged out Katie for the alternate honors. Either would have been excellent choices - Katie's work was very strong - but you have to draw a line somewhere.which is why I hate slams, but that's another rant entirely. In any case - the team ought to be a formidable challenge once competition begins!
Even though some of the competitors did not earn a spot on the team, there were still outstanding performances the entire night. George McKibbens scored low all night, in my opinion, though briefly forgetting certain lines didn't help with the judges. Stalwart OC poet G. Murray Thomas barely missed the cut after doing two funny, popular pieces - being stuck with the unenviable first position probably doomed his chances due to "score creep" before he ever took the stage. Someone I hadn't seen before was Mark Shafer - his poems were EXTREMELY clever, especially "Aping Evolution." I want to see him perform in some other context to hear more. There was also a mini-epidemic of poets leaving the stage without finishing a piece - both Bear and Sam Conston did that trick.
Calibration: Greg Austin with a new piece called "Friction." I liked it a lot, although being the first poet up at one of these event is unenviable. You get to find out how happy the judges are based on your scores. (23.6)
G. Murray Thomas - "Skin Cancer" (24.5)
Katie O'Loughlin - "Concave Bellies Don't Bear Babies" (26.3)
Bear - (Consciouness On Demand) (24.1)
George McKibbens - "True Story Of A Long Distance Wedding" (26.4)
Sam Conston - (Fat people) (25.7)
Michael Cirelli - (If we are what we eat.) (28.1)
Mark Gonzales - (Like the Wizard of Oz.) (28.2)
Rachel Kann - (Case #347.) (27.8)
RAC aka Rachel McKibbens - (There's nothing worse than sodomy on a school night.) (29.4)
Mark Shafer - "Aping Evolution" (25.2)
Buddy Wakefield - (We both know the smell of a convenience store.) (28.1)
Chanelle Moore - "Create To Complain" (26.2)
I'm starting to get bitter. I keep thinking about Flaubert's requirements for happiness, and they are starting to make sense.
Still recovering from being sick, and still apparently antisocial as hell, I went to Alta Coffeehouse in Newport Beach to see Lee Mallory and Ricki Mandeville co-feature. Already two reviews behind at this point, I figured I'd give myself the night off from LitRave duties and actually LISTEN to poetry for once. The opening (and closing) act was an absolutely ADORABLE female singer/songwriter named Courtney Montgomery. (Don't just take MY word for it - my friend JS was completely entranced by her the whole night. AND she's apparently single. So where is Cupid when you need him?)
It was interesting to see how differently Lee interacted with Ricki in this performance, compared to the insanity of the Leigh and Lee show. They read some very tender love poetry to each other - although it was all for show. (Ricki's significant other was sitting behind me, and you could tell that it was a little strange to see another man reading that kind of stuff to her.) Both of them have chapbooks available through FarStarFire Press - 'nuff said.
Despite my best efforts to not be distracted, there was this one guy in a sweater who kept pissing me off. He started his night by taking my seat while I was ordering a drink. Then, he jolted the table and spilled my hot chocolate. After correctly interpreting my glare as "move or get recycled," he moved to a seat near the front of the room. During the entire performance, he sat there macking on his salad, oblivious to anything else in the room. In one sequence, he looked up from a big mouthful of hearty greens to see Lee Mallory standing directly over him. He calmly picked up his iced tea and took a big swig while staring at Lee's armpit. And who wouldn't do exactly that in the same situation?
There were only three open readers: Leigh White (asked to be a faux host/opening reader since Lee was featuring), Finn (who talked about how he almost went to Iraq as part of the military), and Meredith Laskow (the Poet Laureate of Placentia, no joke.) But an early night is JUST fine with me. Sometimes, you need to get away from poetry and do other things with your life. Or so I hear.
Readers/performers: Courtney Montgomery, Leigh White, Lee Mallory, Ricki Mandeville, Finn, Meredith Laskow.
Upcoming features: Don't ask.
Back from Vacation
I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying my pseudo-vacation from LitRave. I've actually written THREE NEW POEMS with my newfound spare time - go figure! Thanks to all of the new names who are showing up in the Forum - please keep writing in!
Some quick hit-or-miss impressions on a variety of topics:
· I caught Jawanza Dumisani at Coffee Cartel a few weeks ago reading in support of his new book, Stoetry. (Mr. Dumisani has made the pages of LitRave before.) Great performance, great writing. Another World Stage regular - a guy who went by "AK Tony," though I'm probably spelling that wrong - blew me away with two strong performance poems, including one which was a tribute to the jazz drumming legend Billy Higgins. Tony used only a few words in the piece, but used his vocal rhythms and tones to emulate the sound of a jazz drum solo to SPECTACULAR effect. (I grew up in a house with a brilliant jazz drummer, so believe me on this one.)
· Carrie Seitzinger and Jaimes Palacio co-featured at the Ugly Mug on May 28. Carrie, who was one of the "New Voices" in the Orange County Poetry Festival, brought out one of her old poetry journals that she had used when she was 9 - complete with ILLUSTRATIONS! It was funny, charming..and vaguely reminiscent of Willam Blake, minus a few tigers and lambs. Jaimes, an OC poetry stalwart, read for a LONG time and finished with an [ahem] interesting a capella version of "The Impossible Dream" from The Man Of La Mancha. Others performers included Dufflyn ("The Battle Of Kim," an imagined faceoff between Kim Jong-Il and Lil' Kim), Rives, Leigh White (new poem "The Coy Fish Manifesto"), Greg Austin (new poem starting with some sung lines from the new White Stripes record), and a bunch of people doing "fifteen minutes ago" parody poems inspired by an email from Jeremy Stephens. Also, Meredith Laskow did a not-so-funky dance in the back during the break. Film at 11.
· Tebot Bach on May 30 had a triple feature: Rachel McKibbens (formerly RAC for those not in the know), Ellyn Maybe, and Chris Abani. Rachel actually cried during her first poem, and didn't seem to regain her emotional balance until her last piece. As usual, her work was top-notch and almost painfully naked - and, in a surprise, included a devastating short story as the centerpiece of her reading. Ellyn was charming, funny, and poignant as usual. Chris, supporting his new book Daphne's Lot, read some excerpts from the long poem which comprises most of the book and closed with some short poems and an improvised saxophone solo. (Full review coming soon on Poetix.maybe.)
· Paul Suntup and Daniel McGinn co-featured at the Ugly Mug on June 3 and entertained the audience with a set of almost entirely new material. The two poets collaborated on one of my favorite books of poetry (The Shape Of Her Back), and seeing both of them trade off poems on the same night was a rare treat.
· Jim Doane of the Redondo Poets organized a "burnout night" for those people burned out on poetry, life, or both. (I'm squarely in the "both" column.) A few of us showed up to the reading early enough to hit the Redondo Beach Brewing Company and have some beers, then attended the "theme night" reading at Coffee Cartel which was supposed to center around "death, insects, or linoleum." (I should have emailed Paul Koenig and asked to read HIS poem on linoleum, since I don't know anyone else who has tacked that subject.) Afterwards - more drinks at Hennessey's, this time with some of the open mike readers. (I got to talk with Jim, Larry Colker.and a girl who used to be Snow White at Disneyland.) I'm not necessarily advocating developing a greater tolerance for open mic readings by developing a greater tolerance for alcohol.but then again, maybe I am. In any case - it was a blast!
· Thanks to everyone who showed up at Alta Coffeehouse last Wednesday for my co-feature with Pat Cohee. I did my best to pimp LitRave by waving a LitRave bookmark during my set, and also by reading fellow LitRaver Wayman Barnes' poem, "How To Not Break Up With Margaret." (I will be forever jealous that I didn't get to write that poem first.) Also, in a bizarre turn of events, host Lee Mallory ended up taping an upside-down basket to his head (!), then taping various pieces of paper to the basket (!!), and finally getting a "lick me baby" sign taped to his back (!!!), courtesy of Jaimes Palacio. Never one to miss an opportunity, I taped the LitRave bookmark to the front of the basket, ensuring maximum brand exposure. I can't wait to see the weekly deltas in site traffic.
· Maybe I'm prematurely old and stodgy at 29, but I really don't get the whole "I am the sofa king" thing. But I don't think I would have gotten it at 28 either. Still - good to see contributions to the site, eh?