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Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 9.11.01

What do you get when you combine a round man, a few round drums, round-robin promotion, and Leimert Park after dark? The answer is "Revolutionary Minded" poetry.

Revolutionary Minded is a brand spanking new poetry venue in Leimert Park hosted by Babu and housed at the former 5th Street Dick's. The joint made its official debut on Monday, September 10th, and if a weekly show can be judged by its debut, this one is going to be red hot.

The house was packed with poets, spoken word artists, and musicians. The mic was open, the sage was burning, the food was cooking, and cool beats were playing in the background. Yawo, Ron, and Ed on drums and Artus Mansoir on guitar (no, this rhyme was not intended!) provided some smooth accompaniment while the poets followed each other on stage to raise the temperature higher and higher. It all started with two poems by Jackie Big, followed by the gracious host Babu and his quasi-Shakespearian poem "To B or Not To B." Then, Kenny B. got the ladies' attention with his ode to a Black woman and another very mellow love poem. Rochelle "Charm"-ed us with her "Hearing Confusion," and Thea got everybody's attention with two powerhouse poems about God, gratefulness, and manifesting one's own strength. Rowinism showed himself "From the Inside Out" and confessed that "sometimes life is just too hazy," and Litrave's own Jelena (yes, that's me!) followed. Then, Shawnette stepped to the mic, followed by Bridget Gray ("High Yellow School") who talked about her rare form of amnesia ("I have a rare form of fatal amnesia, for I have forgotten how to breathe..."). The host of "Inner Verse," Yawo, talked about "Well, well, well..." what else but "Change." Vanessa read a few entries from her journal and decided to "Jump Today." Gimel admitted to "feeling incomplete" and brought the house down talking about his "Reflections" over a cool Afro beat. Nafeesa was next, then Gina Nicole, followed by Dr. Flow. Then, they brought Sekou to the stage. He dedicated his rhymes "to brothas who don't blast everybody" and got the ladies positively swooning. Babu then declared that "Round Is Good, Square Is Bad..." and nobody complained, 'cause they liked the sound of the round drums, and the roundabout way poets got onto the mic, and the food served from the round Kweny's kitchen. Babu was followed by Love Child, Ghasai (sorry, brother, if I misspelled your name!), C-Bone Jones, and Sesi Ras. Then, Artus Mansoir sang a marvellous "...Life is an amusement park, so come inside..." and talked about "Thinker's Brain." A man called Otherwise came up to the mic to rap, but forgot his lines and proceeded to freestyle about freestyle and positively bring the house down.

Most LA poetry "icons" were in the house (Alice The Poet, Tovi Khali, Gina Loring, Poetri the Poet...) and getting ready to speak. Still, the early morning hours were rolling around pretty quickly, and your humble reporter had to leave. Chantee's song "You can never tell what's on man's mind" rang in the air, drum beat was spilling down the street, and half-moon was peering through the clouds. A picture perfect night in Leimert Park after dark! So - as Babu would say - next time, be there or be SQUARE!

Upcoming feature poets are Tovi Khali on September 17th, C-Bone Jones on September 24th, and Bridget Gray on October 1st. Be there or... ya know!

Revolutionary Minded Poetry
Mondays 9:00 (closer to 10:00) PM to 1:00 AM
3335 W. 43rd Place
Leimert Park
(former 5th Street Dick's, between Vision Theatre and Project Blowed)

Lingering poetically in Leimert Park and raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 9.9.01


Poets Cabin, that is... Poets Cabin is a brand new poetry venue on the Westside, and all you poetry hosts out there are probably thinking, "There goes another poetic suicide attempt!" C'mon! We all know how hard it is to start and maintain a quality poetry venue in this city. Well, there are still some brave (or innocent) souls out there who think mission impossible is actually quite possible. And their names are Apple and Ursula.

These two brave ladies are making their "baby steps" in the attempt to revitalize the art life in the Pico/Fairfax area. Both of them are singers (and quite generous hostesses, I must admit), and the vision for the Poets Cabin is that it should in time become a "safe haven" for all types of artists: poets, musicians, visual artists, dancers... you name it. Poets Cabin debuted on August 25th, and is currently running every Saturday night. The time of the show is still negotiable, but the open mic generally starts around 9:00 p.m. and then the night continues with featured artists until 1:00 a.m. And this weekend had some mighty good artists performing, I must admit.

The night started with Macho and Rafi of Tunnel Rats fame on the open mic. And they rocked it! Then, the first featured reader followed: Bridget Gray. Needless to say, Ms. Gray was more red hot than anything. Second featured reader was LitRave's own Jelena (yes, that's me!), followed by some amazing acapella musical performances by Ursula and Apple. Tiffiney Scott was the next poetic feature, and she got lots of love from the audience, although she admitted she couldn't write love poems. The night ended with an aural delight in the form of A.K. Tony. If you frequent the World Stage in Leimert Park, you know what I'm talking about, and if you don't, then you'd better get your fine selves over to the Poets Cabin, because A.K. is becoming a regular.

All in all, there is another promising poetry venue in town. And, while you are listening to some spoken word and singing, don't think you'd go hungry either. Poets Cabin takes place in a restaurant. Soul food restaurant, for that matter. And if you happen to be a vegetarian (somewhat like the undersigned), there is something for you, too. Definitely check out their candied yams. You'd be refilling your order a few times, I bet.

Poets Cabin
at Maurice's Snack & Chat
5549 W. Pico Blvd.
(between Fairfax and La Brea)
Every Saturday night from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Poetically contemplating Poets Cabin and raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon

Nancy Lambert 9.7.01
No Poetic Justus? Rapp Saloon

You had to be there. I could say all kinds of stuff about how great, how wonderfully eclectic and totally alive the evening was. You couldn't even call it a "reading," exactly, with several people doing songs and comedy. When is comedy not a poem? When is a song in musical notes more like a poem than the poem itself? I don't know. It's like trying to ask, when is truth?, or what is the precise chemical composition of the poetic phrase or stanza that gives you a chill, or makes your fingertips tingle, or finds you nodding or moving your body in a strange new dance right along with the poet? Rapp was like that last night -- a self-combusting glow made up of equal parts nerviness, tart humor, melody, and brave new heart. I sat and tried to write it all down, gorgeous phrase by phrase, but it's really impossible: Tracy Witt's "imaginary millionaires on a sinking ship." The impossible-to-quantify "Jimmy Durante cell phone song" by the inimitable Dana Snow. Michelle Daugherty's moving "there are mirrors used to be in pretty rooms," asking the simple, true question: "why can't we want what we are?" Then there's Rick Weinburger -- imagining a crossroads where gods of classic Greek mythology bump against the metallic ping of 19th- and 20th-century technology. And after Rick, Robin Manos, the featured poet, offering a series of sweetly delivered but ennervating poems about sex and love (and sex) on the dark side of the street. Next up, Patrick Hanifan, breaking Robin's bewitching spell with laugh-out-loud tales about 1) his crummy car, 2) why other people have it backward, 3) the oklahoma bowling-alley karaoke queen, and 4) all the while snapping the stuff like crazy, 100 ways to astound your friends using common carton-stuff bubble-wrap.

Next up, the moon man himself (and Rapp co-host), Gary Justice ("I seek sacred dark spaces between the syncopation/and try to find the mind of God"). Terry McCarty countered his dry McCarty-esque "job interview" with a poem to his bride-to-be, Valerie ("I locked the doors and left the keys inside...") that had me turning my head around to see, sitting in the back row, the glowing woman who inspired so much love. Next, Neil Aitken, reading from two new chapbooks: "No Matter Death" and "Through Fields" (from "Morning in America," written after the McVeigh execution: "she wants to write her fear and her anger on his cement-pale skin. "// "...on the freeway.../where stray dogs mark their exit from this world...") -- oh, I give up. You just can't catch the beauty and depth of Neil's poems in any single line or two. You have to read it from beginning to end.

Donn Dedonn, whose Heather Long remains in Canada pending INS correction of its terrible mistake, brought her to us through his simple, humbling gratitude ("I tasted your fear with the tip of my tongue and found it sweet..." "In the warmth of the candlelight, you call me beautiful. Thank you."). I read next; followed by wiry-guy Gabe Cousins, sharing a few of his 180,000 words of "music and mime"; then by Rapp host Pete Justus, closing the evening with words about loss and courage -- "You can't be hurt without loving.../you can't love without taking a chance" -- that say out loud, for me, what the Rapp Saloon is all about. You should go down there some Friday night.

Rapp Saloon
hosted by Pete Justus and Gary Justice
Friday nights, sign-ups 7:30 p.m., reading starts at 8:00

Located in the Hostelling International building at 1436 2nd St. in Santa Monica (between Broadway and Santa Monica Blvd.) Parking available in nearby parking structures.

Frankie Drayus 9.5.01
Neil Aitken Features at the Ugly Mug
a.k.a. Wayman the Punctual Sinner

I'm sick I can't breathe, my head is full of mucus and fluff but it's my poetic little brother's debut feature 76 frigging miles away and what am I supposed to do? What I always do, of course: call Wayman and see if I can talk him into driving. When he arrives at my place, five minutes early as usual, I am still in my hot pink satin bathrobe. It matches my runny nose. I would have been ready if he arrived when I asked, or even a few minutes later, but he never does. Wayman Barnes is the most punctual person I know. And this is an unforgivable sin.

Through a handful of tissue, I say, “Here is where you are supposed to say I don't look nearly as bad as I sound.” Wayman merely smiles and says nothing. I remember back to kindergarten my teacher instructing: if you can't say anything nice about someone…

Wayman sitting smugly on my couch reading my latest New Yorker makes me want to give him an indian burn. Then I realize we haven't left yet and he could still reneg on driving all the way to Orange, last bastion of the Republicans. So I'm very quiet (for me anyway) until we pull out of my driveway, roll a block or so down the street. But before I even start telling him the best way to get to the freeway or to watch out for the speed bumps he always ignores, I notice he is playing a Nixon speech on tape. Fascinating and a grand departure from the usual techno stuff he assaults my ears with. I wonder is this is the famed “Checkers” speech and listen intently until something disturbs my concentration: Wayman is shouting, “Well aren't you going to say anything about this tape?”

“I was just thinking how interesting it was.” I try to sound very interested.

“Well if it isn't driving you nuts ” and he yanks it out of the dash and tosses it into his pristine backseat. Wayman's car is always cleaner than mine. This annoys me.

He replaces the tape with Prodigy. If you aren't familiar, Prodigy sounds like 12 parts techno and one part thrash-Metallica, all turned up to ear-splitting decibel levels. Then it repeats.

As the windows of the car begin to shake he looks sideways at me.

“I'm so glad you put this in,” I tell him, “because I haven't heard it since I left for the east coast. Makes me feel like I'm truly home.” I sigh sweetly.

He makes a noise that sounds a lot like Grrrrr and offers to put on a different tape. I insist on listening to this one. I know it's a mix tape and my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers song is coming up if I can hold out for just a little longer. I can't hear much anyway with this cold. I fumble for more tissue and try to ignore the screaming lyric Feel the pressure!

Wayman believes in taking at least six freeways to get anywhere, particularly if a direct route exists. But I have to hand it to him this time we make it to Orange from West LA in the height of rush hour in 35 minutes flat. The quickest route anywhere in Southern California has nothing to do with straight lines, but every time we crisscross the jammed 405 I feel compelled to remind him that the 76 mile readout on mapblast is only relevant if we actually follow the directions.

We arrive at least half an hour early (oh, cardinal sin). The owner takes an instant dislike to us, particularly to Wayman. Wayman slips me some cash and persuades me to go up to the counter and buy his drink.

“I'm afraid he'll spit in it if he's knows it's for me.” I oblige, sweet-talk the owner so that he can concentrate all of his personality disorder on Wayman, and tell him I've got a cold.

“You poor thing. I'm so sorry.” When I bring Wayman his mocha with whip he counts his change, stops, then says, “You didn't TIP him, DID you?!”

“But of course I did. After that time you called me a cheapskate, I always make sure to tip the barrista at least 20%” He blinks several times before making that sound again the one that sounds a lot like Grrrrr.

Wayman Barnes 9.5.01
Two Idiots and an Ugly Mug

This was the invitation we received:
"Join this LA-based poetic traveler [Neil Aitken] for an odyssey that will span from the fields of Northern Saskatchewan to the inner landscapes most poets dare not explore... and, he's got a poem that references Rabbit Lake. How can you not love Rabbit Lake??!"

How could we not go??!

Of course, when we found out that it was in Orange, CA, we had to give it some serious thought. Did we really want to be there after dark? With all those OC Republicans??! Hell, no! But we could not let our buddy, Neil, face them alone. So away we went.

The venue, Ugly Mug Caffe, was a converted house filled with antiques, Lava Lamps, and Rudolph Valentino posters. Very cool looking.

The reading, Two Idiots Peddling Poetry, was one idiot short. The host, Ben, had to fend for himself. He made everyone feel welcome and kept things moving.

The open mic readers (Zainab Outlaw, John Thonn, Frankie Drayus, Alpha, Wayman Barnes) all did an excellent job.

The feature, Neil, was very impressive. He read from his brand new chapbooks and had a beautiful sister to boot. He has a lot of features coming in the near future, so go out of your way to see him.

He also has a website: http://www.lone-crow.com

All in all, with the exception of Wayman nearly getting thrown out of the venue by the owner, we had a very wonderful evening.

Two Idiots Peddling Poetry
Wednesdays at 8
Ugly Mug Caffe
261 North Gassell Ave.

Nancy Lambert 8.31.01
Cafe Vibe Open-Mic Songwriting and Poetry, Sherman Oaks

One of those old-fashioned, no-franchise coffee dives. You have to fend off the espresso machine roar and the traffic on Ventura Boulevard, not to mention the many local and not-local passerby who can care less about listening to poetry/songs, they just want that coffee to go. But the small stage area is cut-out perfect for playing to a meandering crowd ranging from old men playing chess in the back to young turks and their hip-hop girls intensely conversing at that big table smack in the middle of your poem about war, or love's labor's lost, or whatnot. Every Thursday with sign-ups starting 7:30 and getting going by 8 o'clock plus, there's an open mic songwriters (and poetry) format warmly hosted by Garrett, who starts by playing guitar and doing a few of his own songs, then turns it over to everyone else -- last night doing everything from hip hop to Leo Kottke-style guitar to an a cappella bluesy love song to poetry-with-words-all-alone. Fine song writing, great coffee, spacious room lit by red-blue-green not too bright overheads, and the walls decked in energized local artwork. Big plate window looking out on Ventura Boulevard, couple of doors down from Moby Disc and Second Spin (two great used CD and video stores) plus my favorite cheap restaurant, Gulan, which has the best homebaked pita bread I've ever tasted in my life.

It's maybe a best-kept secret, this stretch of Sherman Oaks--Ventura Blvd. between Kester and Van Nuys Boulevard. Lots of kids doing out-on-dates; lots of parents with babies in strollers enjoying the summer evening. Cafe Vibe's big plate-glass windows look right out on all the mess and happy congestion of life, making for great poetic energy. I hate the word "eclectic" but I guess it suits -- meaning you don't know what you'll get at Cafe Vibe's open Thursday mic -- but if next week's as warm and friendly, and with such top-rate songs-and-poems, I'm going to make this place a regular. Only problem will be getting in the door once the word gets out.

Cafe Vibe
14568 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
(off the 101N exit, Van Nuys Blvd.)
open-mic every Thursday, sign-ups 7:30 p.m.
hosted by Garrett
For info: 818 / 291-1838.

The Exorcist 8.29.01

This is the Exorcist reporting on Tuesday's slam at the Lounge. First I'll speak on the Bachelor and Bachelorettes auction in the first half. Each poet did a piece and then was bid on. Poetri was the auctioneer. Macho started it off and got $20 for Peace Day. Poetri's sister said that the money helped some kids have a fun filled day. I forgot where but radio stations came down to participate and other volunteers. Omari went for $28. The Lounge provided a gift certificate for the dating couple which provided them a meal at a certain restaurant. Omari's throat weas sore so Spiffy did a poem about how much she had the hots for Omari. She ended up getting the highest bid on him at $28. Gimel went for around the same I think. He did a new poem and it was tight. Poetri, who wasn't auctioned off did a poem inserting the song 'just my imagination' and that song was the theme for the poem. Inq brought the house down. When the bidding slowed he did a Jack Palance and did five one armed pressups. That got one girl really worked up and she got to $27. Another outbid her so he did situps and then flipped to his feet from his back so her and her competitor had a bidding war and she finalized it with a $45 bid. That was the highest male bid. Gina had the highest female bid also at $45 until later when one girl whose name I can't remember who was a sacrificial poet got a bid of $60.The highest bid of the night. Thea went for $34. Her poem talked about wanting to need to have to love someone. I forgot to mention 'woowoobaby' teling Inq to exercise some more during his bid. Sekou was scheduled to be a bachelor but he was performing somewhere else. The bidding always started at $5 or as Poetri said five bones. I was in the slam and came second to last out of 8 people with 18.5. Illlogic was wronged by the judges with a 14.5. I guess they didn't get his poetry. Dingo did a poem in which he got everybody chanting 'Rise rise rise' and he got 19.1. One judge that joined in the chant showed him love with a 9.9 I think. Shane joined in the slam. I think he's from the Dallas team. He was announced as the winner of the nationals and he did three five minute pieces all of them entertaining. He described himself as the worlds greatest overweight lover. He asked a girl in the crowd how she made love. He said he was like Hailey's comet. You only experience him once in a lifetime. Twice if you're lucky. He said his lovemaking was like a martial arts video game. Many diferent styles. I liked his reference to being a prisoner inside a woman's rib cage. He got R-A-C laughing so hard she cried and he called her one of God's flowers that he forgot to water. He told her that the perfect haiku is three syllables 'you and me ' or 'R-A-C'. He was smooth. In one of his poems he said a woman was so fine that flowers would turn to smell her. 'you see that sunset. I drew it for you.' Then he said the rain caused the wrinkles. His slam poem referred to his grandmother. She said 'Life is a game. You play, you win. You play you lose, but you play!' So all in all, including the slam I heard 6 of his poems. He threw one of his chapbooks out to the crowd. He asked if people would buy some to help him get back to Canada. He didn't make it to the final two. The final four were him, R-A-C, Nafeesa and a poet I hadn't heard before called Emily. She was tight. She did a poem about a girl describing her bitch of a sister. 'bitches don't drink margaritas, they drink tequila' was the line that drove everybody wild. One calibration poet did a great poem where he talks in a nervous voice relating how he tried to summon up the nerve to talk to a girl in a Starbucks and he walks over to her to chat and at this point he speedtalked imitating her cursing him out and saying he needed to step, he's got some nerve coming over and saying she'd cut his nuts off and give them to her cats to use as marbles and that's the line his poem ended on when he switched back to his nervous voice. R-A-C lost to Emily by a tenth of a point in the second round, Emily scoring 29.3. so it was between Nafeesa and Emily for $75 and the opportunity to go forward to the semifinals on the Hollywood team in April. It was made harder for April. They have to do three completely different pieces. I think Nafeesa ended on 'half devil. Earlier she did 'Supewoman' and 'Fractions' I think. I got to go over them again later at my leisure as she had her chapbook on the refreshment stand for free. Nice of her. I checked out her website that was listed. It's 'nafeesa.8m.com'. She got 4 tens and a 9.6. Emily got 4 tens and a 9.5. Could it get any closer? Shihan asked if they would share the prize money as they tied. For those who don't know the way the points work the bottom score is dropped. Forgot to mention that Macho did his most well known poem 'one-one-one'. This has been a report from the Exorcist.

The Exorcist 8.27.01

This is the Exorcist reporting on Friday night's happening at the Midnight Special. Kurt, a German guy did a really hilarious poem called 'Diarrhoea'. One guy did a great wordplay about his lovelife improved by the love of his life that he hopes to love for life because she made him love life. One kid did a great poem about coughing up bits of his blackened lung and a yellowed fingernail peeling off but then said tongue in cheek 'but it wasn't the cigarettes that killed him'. This has been a message from the Exorcist.

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 8.24.01

I get home around midnight, and before "hitting the hay" e-mail Wayman with some important information about a Saturday venue. And what does he do?!? He wants to know how was Green!!! Well, Wayman, to know how fresh Green is, you've got to see it to believe it.

As it has become customary, Tanner's Coffee House in Culver City was packed for another "edition" of Green, the home away from home of the Los Angeles Slam Team (National Vice-Champions, if you didn't know). Even with most of the "big guns" present, it's safe to say that it was a night of surprises, though. Shihan thought that just showing up (without reading) would have the ladies swooning anyway. Poetri read a nice "imagination" poem, but his singing was far from imaginative, so the audience jumped in to save what can be saved. Gimel poeticized about his impressions from the flight to Seattle, and Sekou prayed to God not to be broke no more. Buddy Wakefield showed us that LA is not the only place with absolutely off-the-hook poets (mad props to Seattle). Macho and Donovan of the Tunnel Rats fame rocked the mic with some spiritual rap and cool singing. DJ Jedi was spinning like all the force was with him. Those who know Green would say this is a normal state of affairs. Still, surprises were what made the night special. How, you might ask... Well, for one, C-Bone read a LOVE poem. Yes, you heard it right: a love poem! So did Jared aka Tone. Can you believe that?!? Jelena (that's me) DIDN'T read a love poem in spite of her reputation. And Thea read a really, really cool and not-bitter-at-all love poem. Other surprises: Claire aka Ms. Andrews showed up after months long disappearance; Amy read a rather cool "haikoem" (poem made up of haikus); new mama, Robin, was there to support; James read at Green for the first time. Other poets were: Kwame, Babu, Raymond, El Rivera, Konception, Alan, D-Lite, Gina and I hope I'm not forgetting anyone.

So, Wayman, here is your answer. Green was cool, and fresh, and GREEN to the bone. Next time, go see it for yourself! I need to go get some sleep now.

Grazing on the Green and Raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon

The Exorcist 8.23.01
This is the Exorcist reporting on Tuesday night's happenings at the Lounge. Mr Young dropped a really tight poem called 'Acapella'. I hadn't heard him flow for a few weeks and he made up for the absence. One kid did a poem on the word 'shit' and its uses and Poetri made that his theme for the night. Poetri did a poem on a woman who grabbed her purse tight to herself when he came on the bus. He said he wanted to grab her purse and put money in it just to confuse her. That was the funniest part of the poem to me. That was his new poem for the week. I make that two as he dropped 'nigger haiku' at Tanners on Thursday previous. Poetri said that Gimel and Shihan had flaked but Gimel came up later and bust his new poem. Something about a painting. Shihan wasn't going to do one but he got writing while Gimel was reciting. It was short but I liked the line about an angel with blood on her wings because she got too near to the truth and how he wiped the blood off the wings. 'Woo woo baby' quoted Martin Luther King. One poet did his poem kneeling and with his back to the audience so his friend who lost a friend to a shooting wouldn't think he was fronting. He talked about religion being a drug for some people who take the Lord's name in 'vein'. C-Bone flowed and Macho and James aka IllLogic did their raps over a beat. IllLogic saw a friend reciting poetry who had actaully given him his rap name. He hadn't seen the guy in three years. They were school buddies. He got him rapping. Small world. I felt good because I'd got him to come to the lounge. Snowplow performed 'Model Minority'. Xtroverse did 5 minutes of beatboxing. Sang while beatboxing! A poet called Buddy Wakefield did an interesting piece. When Sekou did his thing one girl made the sign of the cross with her two fingers. There were a few first timers. Nafeesa did a piece I hadn't heard before. Babu did a poem about old school and new school rap and Damon did "If I were God'. This has been a message fom the Exorcist.

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 8.22.01
Nirvana In A Bottle

In these times of instant gratification, some would say three-and-a-half hours of poetry is too much to endure even for getting close to poetic nirvana. Still, a few brave souls discovered last night at Zen Restaurant that no time is too long if poetry is good.

Larry Jaffe took Poetic License again last night (like he does every Tuesday), and put together an evening filled with powerhouse poets from all over the country and beyond. It also seemed to be a night with the sizeable amount of estrogen floating around, from the two features - Salena Saliva and Alyssa Burrows, to the lovely guest from Massachussetts - Nina Katherine Simon, and our local Carmen Vega, Kathy O'Laughlin, Estelle Childers, Debbie Allen, Mary, and LitRave's own Jelena (that's me). Now, don't take me wrong... Men were quite amazing, too. From Buddy Wakefield who came all the way from Seattle, over Jack McCarthy from (where else but) Massachussetts, to our local lads - Jeff Jurgens, Neil Aitken, Russell Salamon, Steve Ramirez, Steve Lakey, Mani Suri, Gary Justice, G. Murray Thomas, Mark Gonzales, amazing Ben Porter-Lewis, Tracy, Enrique, and (of course) the unavoidable Larry Jaffe himself.

It is hard to point out the highlights of the evening, since almost every second was a highlight in itself. It all started by a bluesy guitar solo by My Lemon Pledge aka Jimmy Smith, who got us all in the mood with his, "I miss you, darlin', more than I miss a rainy day." Then, a few poets down the line, Buddy Wakefield positively put a spell on the audience with his poem, his "monkey playing bass and a back-up diva in a slow tornado." Then, Nina Simon gave an amazing rendition of her "Birthright" to Israel, and Jack McCarthy mused about "The End of the Road." Ben Porter-Lewis got us all fired up with his performance of his ever-developing "Saigon Boy" series, and Larry Jaffe made a sleek introduction of the two featured poets by reading his own 4-part poem "Velocity" and comparing velocities of a bullet, a rainbow, a blow job, and friendship.

Then, we got a taste of funny, feminist, funky poetry from the first feature of the night, the redhead 6-foot Amazon from Washington, Alyssa Burrows. Now, just looking at Alyssa, lines from a poem by Bridget Gray somehow come to mind: "I'm half-Amazon, half-amazing." The second feature was Salena Saliva from London, England. Yes, we all loved her British accent, and even more her poems that spanned anything from sex to satire, to dark (typically British, I assume) humor.

By the time Salena finished her feature, most in the audience were dying for a glass of water to help them offset the heat poets raised in that loft above Zen Restaurant. So, we all took a 7.25 minute break (!) and then, a few more amazing performances wrapped the perfect night of Zen: Steve Ramirez brought the house down with his "Ginsberg Section," Mani Suri got everybody thinking about things that "came to pass," and Mark Gonzales powerfully expressed the need for coining a new phrase in the vocabulary of the minorities - instead of "ready, set, go!" Mark proposed "ready, set, know!"

When all was said and done, it was a long and beautiful night at Zen. If anything comes close to nirvana in a bottle, then we had it last night. Thank you again, Larry Jaffe!

Zooming in on Zen and Raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the BashfulDragon

Poetic License
Tuesdays at 8pm
The Zen Restaurant
2609 Hyperion Ave.