As noted in this column before, there are more poets writing in America now than ever before. In Los Angeles this means there are daily poetry venues for every interest and demographic. This week L.A. Letters picks up where last week's column left off, with a long list of special events, venues, and announcements related to National Poetry Month.
In addition to National Poetry Month, April in Los Angeles is also known for the epic annual weekend extravaganza known as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. This year's festival is happening on the USC campus Saturday April 12 and Sunday April 13. Between the many author panels, selected featured readings, and hundreds of publishers with fully stocked tables of books, the festival is utopia for readers and a fun place for a family excursion.
If you are not able to make the festival, there are still dozens of poetry events in every corner of the city. As with last week's list, double check online with the respective venues before you make the trek, but here's a rundown of events and places to get any poetry enthusiast started. There are many weekend events, but there are also no shortage of weeknights, like Tuesdays for example. There are at least four major open mics on Tuesdays, the first one is in Little Tokyo.
The popular series Tuesday Night Café is entering its 16th season and was recently honored by the L.A. Weekly. Original founder Traci Kato-Kiriyama
has passed the hosting and production duties to Sean Miura, Quincy Surasmith, Cara Van Le, Audrey Kuo and a collective of many other up and coming writers. Similar to A Mic & Dim Lights in Pomona and Tia Chuchas in Sylmar, this space has been a springboard for hundreds of writers over the last 15 plus years. Held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, get there early if you want to sign up. They are held in the patio courtyard space just north of First and San Pedro only a few blocks east of City Hall. The neon silhouette of the artful skyscraper always looks majestic to the west. On Tuesday April 15 they will be celebrating National Poetry Month. Watch this clip for more on the spirit of the space.
Tuesday Night Café
120 Judge John Aiso St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dating back to its inception in 1989 with drummer Billy Higgins and poet Kamau Daaood, the World Stage is one of the longest running writing workshop and poetry spaces in the country. Despite recent issues with their rent being raised, the show goes on under the leadership of Conney Williams. If you've never been to Leimert Park, check the World Stage for their weekly Wednesday poetry event or their Thursday night jazz jam session. "Seeking light through sound" is their mantra.
The World Cafe
4344 Degnan Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90008
Avenue 50 Studio hosts the monthly Bluebird Reading led by Jessica Ceballos. This month on April 13 they will be featuring Rachel Mckibbens, Conrad Romo, Iris De Anda, and Detrick Hughes. Also, in collaboration with the Arroyo Arts Collective's "Poetry in the Windows VI," they will be welcoming a guest poet who will be sharing his poem in their window.
131 N. Ave 50
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Educator, activist and poet Zoe Blaq will be featured at the Rock Rose Gallery in Highland Park on April 12. She will be sharing poems from her recently published chapbook, "Rage Love Complexity." She writes, "My blood type is B positive." The event is sponsored by the Arroyo Arts Collective, and is titled, "WORD! A gallery show of art works featuring textual inspiration." The show
opens as part of NELA Arts Second Saturday.
Rock Rose Gallery
April 12 7-10 p.m.
4108 N. Figueroa St.
Highland Park, Los Angeles
Flight School is the weekly open mic every Tuesday night in Culver City's Arts District featuring live music and poetry. Held weekly at the Industry Café & Jazz, you will find one of the friendliest space in the city with excellent food and more. Many poets choose to improvise with the assembled house band, but some don't and either way the vibe is always right. There are also a few singers, MCs and undefinable vocalists jamming with the highly skilled band. Hosted by O. Smith, Gia Scott Heron and Hank G, the energy is always swinging at Flight School, the space inspires performers to bring their A game.
Every Tuesday nights
6039 W. Washington
Culver City, CA 90232
Half Off Books on Greenleaf in Downtown Whittier is home to the Whittier Writer's Group and an epicenter for local writers in Whittier. They have a few different reading series. On April 9 they had a special event for National Poetry Month, featuring the poet Danielle Mitchell. Not only do they have great used books, they have vinyl and unexpected gems collectors will enjoy. After all, nearby Whittier College's mascot is the "Poets," and the city itself was named for the famed 19th Century poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. Half Off Books is Whittier's literary center.
Whittier Writer's Group
Whittier, CA, 90601
Jessica Wilson is the founder of the Los Angeles Poets Society and the host of two weekly events. Wilson's mission is "to create a bridge, fusing the communities of Los Angeles and Southern California Poets, poetry organizations, Writer groups, booksellers, publishers, literary enthusiasts and supporters into a unified social and literary network." To this end Wilson and the Los Angeles Poets Society are holding a contest where they are asking people to not only write a poem a day but to post it on their Facebook wall.
Each morning, the L.A. Poets Society will choose a wining poem from the previous day. All the winners will then then be entered into a contest for a cash prize as well as published on the L.A. Poets Society Website.
Writer Wednesday at Bob's Espresso Bar is her weekly event. Wilson's co-host is Radomir Luza. Poets have five minutes and all creative work is welcome.
Wednesdays 7-9:30 p.m.
5251 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 90601
(across from the Laemmle Theater)
Wilson also hosts Feral Fusion on Thursdays at Mobys Coffee and Tea Company. All genres welcome.
Thursdays 8-10 p.m.
5668 Cahuenga Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 90601
Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore's weekly Friday night open mic over the last dozen years has been responsible for the birth of hundreds of poets in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Founded by Luis Rodriguez while he was living for a time in Chicago, Tia Chucha's just celebrated their 13th anniversary as a physical bookstore/gallery/cultural center. The sister wing of the organization, Tia Chucha Press, also celebrated its 20th anniversary as a publisher last year. Rodriguez's homecoming to Southern California and the birth of Tia Chuchas has been told in this column before.
The Friday night open mics are the starting point. One of the things Rodriguez is most proud of is that the space over the last decade has emerged as a springboard for a powerful movement of young writers, including the "In the Words of Womyn Writing Circle" Writers like Jenuine Poetess, Trini Rodriguez, Karineh Mahdessian, Alexandra Hohmann, and the painter Kristy Sandoval along with many others started together on Friday nights. Bookstore coordinator Silverio Pelayo is a dedicated artist and activist. Tia Chucha also organizes the annual Celebrating Words Festival.
Tia Chucha's Open Mic
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
13197 Gladstone Unit A
Sylmar, CA 91342
The Rapp Saloon is a long-running weekly poetry event with several different hosts over the years. Held in one of the oldest buildings in Santa Monica, the space's name dates back to the structure's 19th Century history. Founded by Pete Justus and Jack Shafer in 2000, one of the most recent hosts is Elena Secota. Held on Second Street in Santa Monica near the Promenade, there's always a great collection of writers.
Rapp Saloon Poetry Reading
Fridays 8:30 p.m.
1436 2nd St
Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Redondo Poets have been gathering for over a decade at the Coffee Cartel in the South Bay. Hosted by Larry Colker, their reading is every Tuesday at 8:10-10 p.m. There is always an open mic reading, and usually a featured poet.
1820 S Catalina
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Soapbox Sessions, hosted by Jason Brain and often including Sean Hill, is held at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Encino every Thursday night. They also host a monthly event called Sweet Noise and do a weekly podcast. Jason Brain is launching his own small poetry publishing house called "Poetry in Motion." They are now accepting submissions for their first anthology and have other plans in the works. Brain and Hill have organized a growing coalition of 818 scribes with their many events and assorted publications.
Every Thursday night
16101 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, CA 91316
Da Poetry Lounge is one of the longest running weekly poetry open mics in the city. Home base for Slam Poetry and Spoken Word, the monthly poetry slams are highly competitive and the space has been the springboard for many slam poets, actors, musicians and MCs. The cover is usually $5 except for their monthly slam which is $10. They also have occasional special featured events like "The Battle for Los Angeles" and other similar citywide slams. Founded by Dante Basco, Poetri, Shihan and DJ Gimel Hooper back in the late 1990s, they gather at the Greenway Court Theater on the campus of Fairfax High School, just south of Melrose. Check their site for more. Tuesdays 9pm.
Da Poetry Lounge
544 N. Fairfax
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Many literary events have been recently held at the Bootleg Theater on Beverly. Rachel Kann and Pocho Joe went toe to toe in an event called "Write Club." Similar to a poetry slam and inspired by "Fight Club," the writers went back and forth with their written work before the large crowd. Also featuring live music and experimental theater, the Bootleg has emerged as one of the most progressive spaces in the city for new work.
2220 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
One more Tuesday night open mic is called Downbeat 720. Hosted by Pocho Joe Hernandez-Kolski, DJ Jedi, and Joshua Silverstein, the focus is on high school performers from across the city. Held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month, they have been going strong for over a decade now and have been a launch pad for many young musicians and poets. The hosts themselves are all highly skilled artists, and they always get the room warmed up. Over the years they have had many big name surprise guests and many great local artists. Teen writers looking to get started and meet other peers need to look no further than Down Beat 720.
Miles Memorial Playhouse
1130 Lincoln Ave
Santa Monica, CA, 90403
Organizations like WriteGirl, Writers at Work, 826LA, and the Get Lit Players celebrate National Poetry Month every day this month with after school writing programs and frequent workshops. There are many other similar organizations and poetry events throughout the city. More will announced in future columns. Salute to all of these organizations, venues and poets, they are critical incubators that come together to form the quilted mosaic and backbone of L.A. Letters.
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- I Am Los Angeles