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Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 6.29.01
Orange Moon and Mighty Oaks

"I'm an orange moon,
I'm brighter than before,
Brighter than ever before.
I'm an orange moon and I shine so bright 'cause I reflect
The light
Of my sun."
(E. Badu)

Whether it was because she coordinated her outfit with her chapbook cover (color orange), or just because she is an amazing poet altogether, Frankie Drayus definitely shined like an orange moon as she performed as a featured poet at the "Mysteries, Movies, and Mayhem" in Sherman Oaks last night. The venue was packed with relatives, friends, Litravers, and other poets, and Frankie was very professional and absolutely amazing, starting with an impromptu interview with the host to the very last line she spoke. She read poems from her freshly released chapbook (if you want one for yourself, e-mail her here at Litrave), as well as some new material and some old favorites not included in the chapbook. The audience was very receptive and supportive, and many of the open mic readers went out of their way to read poems they knew Frankie liked. Wayman even went so far as to write a poem especially for Frankie and about Frankie. And she definitely deserved it! She was an orange moon... We love you, Frankie!!!

Seeing Orange in Sherman Oaks and Raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon

Wayman Barnes 6.28.01
The Frankie Drayus Raid

When Amelie Frank invited (LitRave's very own) Frankie Drayus to feature at Killer Poetry, it was almost a given that we would have to raid it. And, boy, did we ever! The place was packed. Way to go Frankie!

Killer Poetry
Tuesdays at 7:30pm
Mysteries, Movies, & Mayhem
14925 Magnolia, Sherman Oaks

Cindy Bailey 6.27.01
Wednesday evening (6/27) at the Equator in Pasadena was my first reading (at least in front of people like that), although it was purportedly the Equator's last, which is really too bad. The host, Jessica Stone, offered a warm, encouraging spirit, not to mention a beautiful singing voice, to lead the evening's lineup of poets and musicians (most of whom came from the music school around the corner). It's not often these readings include musicians, and the blend was sweet.

Wayman Barnes 6.27.01
The Equator Coffeehouse Open Mic, RIP

~ The hostess, Jessica Stone, got things going with a sexy poem about her boyfriend bringing a stranger into their bedroom. The joke was on us though, it turned out she was talking about a TV set. Still, I didn't let that stop me from thinking about all the kinky things one can do with the ol' boob tube in the bedroom.
~The next guy was on my wave length. He sang a song with the refrain, "Sex in the bathroom, sex in the head." This song was very long and went on for most of the night. After a while the words started blending together and I found I was becoming inspired. So I have begun writing a new piece. When you hear me read "Bathroom Sex Head," you'll know where it came from.
~The next lady was absolutely adorable. She sang a song, acappella, called, "Pancake Mornin'." It was about being in love with love. Mmm-hmm.
~Jessica Stone then sang a couple of songs. She had a beautiful voice. Wow.
~Next up was the stage debut of (LitRave's very own) Cindy Bailey. She was wonderful. All kinds of people were coming up to her afterwards to tell her how much her piece meant to them. I was sooo proud (jealous).
~The next woman performed a rousing version of the Marvin Gaye classic "What's Goin' On."
~Neil Aitken performed his poetry next. He did a great job. Afterwards, several women approached him to see where he would be performing next. I was sooo proud (jealous).
~After Neil was a trio of singers led by K-Ki U. They were very mellow and groovy. Perfect for closing a show.
~Unfortunately, I was next. The very kind Jessica Stone gave me the longest, sweetest, hardest-to-follow intro I have ever received in my life. I think the audience was expecting Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks to walk onstage, but instead they got me. To say the least, I wasn't what they expected. Oh well. Maybe next time. What? There won't be a next time? No more Equator Coffeehouse open mics? What will Jessica Stone do now? She was such a great host. Someone give her another venue. Quick! Something. Anything. So she can make us sooo proud (jealous), once again.

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 6.27.01
The war continues! This time, the three Los Angeles area slam teams also had to face off with half of the San Antonio team, and boy was it hot! Like summertime in Texas.

On Tuesday, June 26th, the Battle for LA continued at Da Poetry Lounge in Hollywood. The place was packed (as usual), and the teams pulled out all their heavy artillery. The home team, Hollywood/Miracle Mile, was represented by Gaknew, Tiffiney Scott, Bridget Gray, Nafeesa Monroe, and alternate In-Q was standing by just in case. Los Angeles team brought Shihan, Sekou tha Misfit, Poetri, Omari, and alternate Jaha. Long Beach team came in full force, led by Ben Porter Lewis with help from Mark Gonzales, Besskepp, and Rachel Kann. San Antonio Team brought two of their best, Amalia and Shaggy, and "borrowed" R-A-C from the Long Beach team and Gimel from the Los Angeles team to form SanOCLA team (San Antonio, Orange County, LA), or as they called themselves, "Sons of Bitches." The event was hosted by Jeff McDaniel, a competitor in the 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998 National Poetry Slam.

The fun started with 3 calibration poets. Bowerbird made everybody laugh with his take on the summers as a schoolboy somewhere deep in the countryside. Then, Macho set the stage on fire with his performance of spiritual rap "One," to be followed by a guest from San Antonio, reading a moving poem on domestic violence. Then, the main course was served. It started with Amalia of SanOCLA team asking for a cat call and scoring 28.5 instead. She was followed by Sekou and his dilemma whether to rob a B of A or not. He settled for 28.6 points instead. Then, Ben Porter Lewis got a standing ovation while trying to explain "What Is Black," and scored 29.4 points. But Hollywood team came up with a strong response from Tiffiney Scott who opened our eyes by saying: "Oh, say can you see, we are still not free!" The judges showed that they saw her point exactly by awarding her 29.6 points. As the poets followed each other on stage, the fierce battle was raging between Hollywood, Los Angeles, and SanOCLA, while Long Beach started falling behind, even though their performances were amazing (Besskepp and Mark Gonzales). The decision, however was made in the very last round. Los Angeles "Team Captain," Shihan blanked out in the middle of his poem, skipped a line, and let everybody know in the end that he did it. Judges were merciless: 28.4 points for Shihan. However, Shaggy's 29.2 for the SanOCLA team were not enough to put them in the lead, because Bridget Gray walked away with an amazing 29.9 and secured the first place for Hollywood team. The biggest (pleasant) surprise of the night however, was Rachel Kann, who gave an absolutely brilliant performance of her famous (or should we say notorious) lust poem, and got the audience up on their feet. (Needless to say, she was getting a lot of attention from the male portion of the audience after her performance.) Still, her 29.9 points were not enough to get the Long Beach team out of the 4th place, where they ended up with a total of 113.2 points. Los Angeles placed third with a total of 114.6, SanOCLA was second with 115.9, and the Hollywood team won on home turf with 116.9 points.

The Battle continues on Thursday, July 5th at 8:00 PM at the new home of The Green and LA Slam Team, Bistro West in West Hollywood. If you are interested in finding out who will win this battle and the war, hop, skip and jump over to our link to the LA Slam homepage for directions.

Hovering in Hollywood and raving for the LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon

Wayman Barnes 6.26.01
Went to watch the Redondo Poets tonight. A wonderful open mic as usual. Marietta was there. A nice surprise. The featured poet, Carine Topal, was great. I am going to have to buy her book. She had some with her, but I didn't have any money (I have learned to not bring any cash to a reading. It is an easy way to go broke. But I do keep a list and one day, hopefully soon, I will be buying a shitload of chapbooks. I promise!).
When you go down to Redondo, I recommend taking the PCH. It took me less than half the time to get there. And you won't run the risk of being stuck in traffic and staring at Al Jolsen's grave for ten minutes.

I also recommend walking over to the beach after the reading (they have nice big waves there) to walk barefoot in the sand and think about the poems you have just heard. Or your life in general. Or me specifically. And how you didn't get me a birthday present. And how a book of poems by Carine Topal would more than make up for it.

Tuesdays at 8pm
1820 South Catalina Avenue
Hollywood Riviera
Redondo Beach

Wayman Barnes 6.23.01
Have you ever had one of those nights where everything just went your way? Well, last night was like that for me (a rarity, so I am going to savor it). I started off by going to a Pink Martini concert (It was FREE!) downtown at the California Plaza Water Stage. A great place to see a show. And, of course, Pink Martini, was wonderful (and FREE!). China Forbes has such a beautiful voice. If I were Eugene, I'd be making out with her to this day. Yep.
I then dropped by Enter the Dragon. Since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I'd quickly step in and say, Hi. I should have known better. The place was packed. Several people were having birthday parties there. There was a lot of food (FREE!) and plenty of musical instruments to go around. I ended up staying there for the rest of the night. Mmm-hmm.


Enter the Dragon is at ARTScorpsLA
936 Mei Ling Way in Chinatown
Enter the Dragon is located at the ARTScorpsLA studio in the Central Plaza of Chinatown. It can be accessed either from Hill Street or Broadway.

Wayman Barnes 6.22.01
My plan was to get a little poetry and then get some early shut eye. And I knew if I went to my normal hangout, The Green, that wouldn't happen. So I called Cindy, Frankie, and David and invited them to a reading called Brain Candy. "It's up in Altadena." I said, "Who is going to go to that?"

Well, apparently quite a few people(It is amazing to me to see how big this performance poetry thing is becoming. If a coffeehouse in Altadena can pack them in ... Wow!)

The place was called The Coffee Gallery Backstage and was a great venue for a poetry reading. The backroom was painted to look like a Central American coffee plantation. It was very well done. I kept expecting guerrillas to run in and kill us all or take us hostage.

The host, Phil, was very upbeat and they had a DJ to make sure everyone else was too. He played a variety of different rhythms beneath the different poets - which, sometimes, made for some very cool combinations.

Do check them out. It is a great show (even if it is in Altadena). Just don't expect to go home early.

Brain Candy - The Coffee Gallery Backstage
1st and 3rd Thursdays of Each Month at 8pm
2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena

Wayman Barnes 6.18.01
Last night I made the trip down to San Pedro to check out the poetry reading at the Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse. Boy, that was a mistake. I had been there several months ago when we were having all those big rains. And half the city was shutting down. Well, as you know, it doesn't take much to make a poet stay at home, so I ended up being the only one there. Which was a shame. It was such a great coffeehouse, a nice stage, the barista was friendly, and the Sacred Cow drink tasted great. All it needed was a poet or two to make it a perfect poetry night.

Well, last night I decided to give them another chance and went back to see what the place was like when it wasn't raining. And, of course, this being my life, I was the only one who showed up again. This time it was the city's fault. The city was cracking down on the Sacred Grounds for not having a performance license or something like that (the barista told me that it should be fixed in the next couple of days). Taxing poetry readings? That's not right! Phbbt! On the San Pedro government.

I ordered another Sacred Cow (still great) and visited with the barista (still friendly). But what I really wanted was some poetry. So I hopped in my car and started off for Santa Ana to watch Penguins Hooked on Macaronics.

To my surprise, San Pedro and Santa Ana are not as close as their names would imply.
So I drove, drove, drove down the 405 to the 5 heading down to San Diego. This, of course, being the wrong direction. I turned around in what must have been half the malls of Southern California and headed back up towards Santa Ana. By this time I realized that I would be there waaaaay too late to read, but having gone through such an ordeal I would demand some kind of retribution from Jaimes Palacio and his OC goons. Something! Anything!

But as I rolled into downtown Santa Ana, I noticed that something was amiss. There were no lights. Santa Ana was having a rolling blackout!!! Aaaauuuugh!!!!!

Mondays at 8pm?
Sacred Grounds
399 W. 6th St., San Pedro

Penguins Hooked on Macaronics
Mondays at 7:30pm
Gypsey Den Grand Central
125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana

Wayman Barnes 6.17.01
We did this on such short notice that we didn't have enough time to invite anyone. But that was okay, more booze for us. I brought the beer and some Aphex Twin videos. Frankie emptied the liquor cabinet and brought out a frozen, chocolate cake. And David provided the moral support. Frankie read some of Joyce Carol Oates' short stories. I thought she was being ornery by picking the depressing ones, so I decided to read something more upbeat. I found a story called "Party" which I thought would be perfect, considering the occasion. But it was worse than the rest! All her stories (at least the ones we had) were about death, death, and more death. I hope Joyce Carol Oates had a happier party than the one we threw for her.

Wayman Barnes 6.16.01
The Joyce Carol Oates Drink-a-thon

Joyce Carol Oates turned 63 years old today. A perfect excuse for a drink-a-thon, don't you think? Of course, it is.

Wayman Barnes 6.15.01
I went to Enter the Dragon last night and had a great time as usual. Poetry, music, painting, and the funky shway. It was a definite happening. Go! Go there soon. Have a great time and tell them you are there for the funky shway. They will know what you mean.
ARTScorpsLA, 936 Mei Ling Way (Chinatown),

Wayman Barnes 6.15.01
Boy, oh boy, the Green is growing, growing, growing. I got there long before the reading was supposed to start and the place was already packed. When they started the show, no one had signed the open mic list. Everyone was there to watch!!! A great thing to see.
The Green, Tanner's Coffee, 4342 Sepulveda Blvd., 8-10pm, Free.

Wayman Barnes 6.13.01
I went to the Poetic License open mic last night. Wow. Larry Jaffe has really earned my respect. He booked one of the wildest features I have ever seen at a poetry reading. It was a group called Bandini Mountain Spoken Word Band - named after a type of fertilizer, we were told. What they did was create soundscapes by playing their musical instruments in unorthodox ways and then recited poems, told stories, or read found items over the noise. And they were funny. They were not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure. If you are in the mood for sonnets, you will probably be disappointed. They were dumb in the best possible way. I loved them. Check them out whenever they are in town (they are from Riverside). And support Poetic License for being ballsy enough to promote a group like that. Tuesday nights at 8pm. The Zen Restaurant. 2609 Hyperion Ave.

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 6.10.01
People, hold on to your parachutes! The Battle for Los Angles has begun.

On Sunday, June 10th, The Big Damn Poetry Slam in Long Beach hosted the first of the battles in an all-out war to prove which of the three slam teams in the larger Los Angeles area is the best. This time, due to a few poets being out of town, some reshuffling within each team had to be done. Long Beach/Orange County were represented by last week's Grand Slam winner - Ben Porter Lewis, fourth place winner - Besskepp, and the alternate R-A-C. They also persuaded Victor Infante to join them today as a wildcard. For Los Angeles, featured were the first place winner - Shihan, third place winner - Poetri, fourth place winner - Omari, and one of the alternates - Jahah. Hollywood brought their top three: Gaknew, Tiffiney Scott, and Bridget Gray, and "borrowed" LA Team's alternate - Gimel to complete their team.
As expected, the battle was fierce and undecided until the very end. After four rounds, the home team (Long Beach/Orange County) placed first with a total of 113.4 points, and Los Angeles and Hollywood were tied at 113.0 points each. So, the tiebreakers were called in: Bridget for Hollywood and Jahah for Los Angeles. Both ladies were hot, hot, hot! In the end, Bridget Gray came out on top with 29.6 points over Jahah's 29.2 thus giving Hollywood the second place "in overtime." Still, this was just one battle, and you know what they say about winning battles and wars... The war continues at Da Poetry Lounge on June 19th, so be there or be square!

Living large in Long Beach and raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 6.08.01
You know how sometimes, even though you are a pretty darn good poet yourself, you feel some people are just totally off the hook, completely untouchable?!?! Well, that's exactly how the undersigned felt listening to the members of the LA Slam Team do "their thang."

On the evening of June 7th, the last of the local slam finals was held at the Green in Culver City to determine who the 4 team members and 2 alternates would be to represent Los Angeles in the National Poetry Slam in Seattle, WA in August this year. The original lineup was supposed to have 15 poets, but due to Ben Porter Lewis and Tiffiney Scott withdrawing from competition (they qualified for the Long Beach and Hollywood teams respectively), and two other poets not showing up on the "battlefield," the number was reduced to 11 (in no particular order): Shihan, Melinda, Jahah, Sekou Tha Misfit, Omari, Gimel aka King Lyric G, Poetri The Poet, Bridget Gray, Rachel Kann, Snowplow, and El Rivera. Of course, the slam was too close to call until the very last moment of the last round. That's when Shihan pulled out his heavy artillery and came out on top. Sekou, who was secure enough to talk about his "Insecurity," took second place (Koo-Koo!), Poetri charmed his way into the third (Way to go, my brotha!) and Omari came in fourth. Now, something very interesting happened with the two alternate spots... They were originally won by Bridget Gray and Rachel Kann, but these generous ladies decided to give up their spots, since they already qualified for the Hollywood and Long Beach teams respectively. That opened the door for Gimel and Jahah for whom, in my humble opinion, that door should have been wide open all along. Now, let's keep our fingers crossed for these Magnificent Six that they may continue to shine as brightly as they did at the Green and make the rest of the nation green with envy at the nationals!

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

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 6.03.01
As the National Poetry Slam in Seattle, WA is inching closer and closer, poets in the larger Los Angeles area are getting down to the nitty-gritty of selecting their teams through a series of local slam finals. Hollywood chose their team first, in mid-May (Gaknew, Tiffiney Scott, Bridget Gray, and Nafeesa Monroe). Los Angeles will be picking their four best on Thursday, June 7th (please check our LA Slam link for more information). And Long Beach was set on fire on the fine Sunday afternoon of June 3rd.

Damn! It was a huge, big slam!!! The ten finalists in alphabetical order were: Besskepp, Lea Deschenes, Mark Gonzales, Eitan Kadosh, Rachel Kann, Ben Porter Lewis, Daniel McGinn, Jaimes Palacio, R-A-C, and Lauren Wheeler. Up until the last round a fierce battle raged between Ben, Besskepp, Mark, Rachel, R-A-C and Eitan. Talk about pen as a weapon and words that pierce the air like bullets! After all was said and done, the blazing Ben Porter Lewis came out on top. Magnificent Mark Gonzales took the second, rapturous Rachel Kann the third, big-word Besskepp the fourth, and remarkable R-A-C the fifth place.

If you are in the mood for hearing any of these poets, go to Long Beach again next Sunday, June 9th, when they will be slamming off against the Hollywood and Los Angeles teams. For more information and directions, click over to The Big Damn Poetry Slam link.

Lingering in Long Beach and raving for LitRave,
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon

Wayman Barnes 6.03.01
The Beyond Baroque Open Reading had a nice sunshiny feel. Which is quite an accomplishment for a black box theatre space. One of the features, Shelley Berger, had brought her young daughter, Zola, and several of her friends straight from a birthday party. They really livened the place up. Shelley told us that she thought this kind of exposure to poetry would inspire the kids to want to write some themselves. And to prove her point, her lovely daughter read to us some of her own poems (my favorite line was "my heart has a heart").
The other feature was Betzi Richardson, who read some wonderful poems as well. Betzi runs the bi-weekly poetry reading at Beyond Baroque. Do check that out. It sounds pretty cool. They read the works of a different poet at each meeting and then discuss.
Beyond Baroque's Open Reading is the first Sunday of each month at 4:45pm. Free.

Wayman Barnes 5.30.01
Frankie and I went down to Redondo Beach last night to check out the (suitably named) Redondo Poets Poetry Reading. It was a lot of fun. The host, Larry Colker, was very funny and did a wonderful job of getting the audience involved (with half of the seats facing away from the stage, this was probably not an easy task). All the poets were very entertaining, with the features, in particular, doing a great job (Claudia Sherman and Eitan Kadosh). I had an excellent mocha (unfortunately, a rare occurrence). But the highlight of the night (for me anyway) was, for some odd reason, the Coffee Cartel being full of some very pretty and really tall college basketball players. I don't know why they were there, or if they will ever be back, but I do plan on going there often. Just in case.
... But I digress. Do check out the Redondo Poets. They were all very nice people and seemed to go out of their way to promote new poets (a great reason to support them).

Tuesdays at 8pm
1820 South Catalina Avenue
Hollywood Riviera
Redondo Beach

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 5.28.01
Poetry in Long Beach is alive and kicking some serious butt (pardon my French!).

On Sunday, May 27, 2001 the last of the monthly poetry slams for this season was held at the Blue Cafe under the wing of The Big Damn Poetry Slam. And, damn, was it a big slam!!!

The first part of the afternoon was devoted to the featured poets and open mic readers, as the tradition calls for at The Big Damn. Even though the day started sluggishly, audience was awakened by two open mic readers: Frankie who mused about sleeping in coral and dreaming in green, and Ian who found his muse in his music. Next, the features took the stage. The birthday girl, Lea Deschenes, was quietly persuasive as always, and Mindy Natifee raised temperature with her poetry and skillfully prepared everyone for what was to come: a REAL BIG damn poetry slam.

The competition started with quite an unexpected "sacrificial lamb" - Jaimes Palacio as calibration poet. And, if everyone thought this would be the highest point of the day, boy were they mistaken! Don't get me wrong: Jaimes was great as usual, but so were the three weekly slam winners who were competing against each other that day. It was almost like a day at the United Nations: Long Beach' own Precious Robinson in the first row, representing Africa; Mark Gonzales from Riverside in the right corner, representing Latin America; and Helen (the Bashful Dragon) from Los Angeles in the left corner, representing Eastern Europe. The "battle" lasted four rounds, with poets setting the stage on fire and raising the roof higher and higher as the competition progressed. All three of them were neck to neck up to the very last round, when Mark came out as the big winner. What a way to end a Sunday afternoon!

So, if you have some time next Sunday, stop by the Blue Cafe on the Long Beach Promenade around 3 PM, say 'hello' to the gracious host, Victor Infante, and stay for a poetry event you won't forget. Yes, you heard it right! On Sunday, June 3rd, Victor and his "posse" will be hosting the Grand Finale of The Big Damn Poetry Slam for this season, when 10 of the best and brightest will be competing for the 4 spots on the team to represent Long Beach in the National Poetry Slam in Seattle, WA later this summer. I bet you will find at least one of your favorites among the finalists: Ben Porter Lewis, Jaimes Palacio, R-A-C, Besskepp, Rachel Kann, Eitan Kadosh, Mark Gonzales, Daniel McGinn, Lea Deschenes, and Lauren Wheeler. Now, hop over to our links page, click on the Big Damn Poetry Slam link and e-mail Victor for directions. He'll be happy to see some new faces in the audience.

Slamming in Long Beach and raving for the LitRave,
Jelena (aka Helen the Bashful Dragon)