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Guide to National Poetry Month 2015, Part Two

Youth poetry workshop at Tia Chucha | Photo: Tia Chucha Facebook

Last week for the beginning of National Poetry Month, I listed as many readings and open mics as I could. This week L.A. Letters features another list of excellent poetry spaces along with a few of the best places to buy poetic literature in Los Angeles.

Before diving into the litany of venues, a quick word must be said about the city of West Hollywood and The Lamppost Project. West Hollywood City Poet Steven Reigns working in conjunction with the city, has created an exhibit where 22 poets are featured on banners attached to the lampposts along Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of WeHo. The poets include local luminaries like Reigns, Luis Rodriguez, Terry Wolverton, Teka-Lark Fleming, Collin Kelley and Eloise Klein Healy, as well as national figures like Rita Dove, Quincy Troupe, Marilyn Chin and Mark Doty. The banners include a line of the poets' work, their name and photo.

Reigns told the WeHoville online newsletter, "Public art is consumed by more people than any work at a museum. I want big exposure for poetry." For those interested in viewing the poetic lampposts, the banners begin on Santa Monica just west of La Cienega. On April 25th the city will feature a reading in celebration of this featuring Reigns and a number of others in the city council chambers. See the link for more.

Beyond Baroque on Venice Boulevard is the longest running poetry venue in Southern California, dating back to 1968. There are featured writers on stage in their Black Box Theater usually from Thursday to Sunday. Poetry workshops and open mics also take place a few times a week. Sunday afternoons are one of the most common times for their open mics. On Sunday April 12, the Soapbox Poets will be featured, along with Julio the Conga Poet.

The Scott Wannberg Poetry Lounge is their onsite bookstore and it is one of the best place in L.A. to find poetry titles, especially small press books and hard to find literary items. They also are known for hosting great out of town poets and special book signings. Their Wednesday night poetry workshop has produced luminaries like Tom Waits and Amy Gerstler.

Suzanne Lummis will be receiving an award at their annual award ceremony for her lifetime of achievements and lengthy service to the Los Angeles Poetry Community. In addition to her extended list of writing credits, Lummis founded the Los Angeles Poetry Festival in the 1980s and for many years has been known as one of the best poetry teachers in the city. The prolific poet and teacher, Elena Karina Byrne is also being awarded for her distinguished service to the Los Angeles poetry community. They will be reading at an event on April 11.

The gallery upstairs from the theater is featuring a gallery show displaying the photography of Alexis Rhone Fancher. Fancher's one-woman show includes 30 fine art photos of Los Angeles and California poets like Will Alexander, Suzanne Lummis, Pam Ward, Michael C. Ford, Linda Albertano, Ellyn Maybe, Richard Modiano, Cece Peri, Jack Grapes, Susan Hayden, Mason Summit and a whole host of others. The exhibition will be up until April 30.

Beyond Baroque
Suzanne Lummis, Elena Karina Byrne, Saturday April 11, 8 p.m.
Soapbox Poets, Sunday April 12, 2 p.m.
Poet Photos by Alexis Rhone Fancher, until April 30
681 Venice Boulevard
Venice, CA, 90291

Poetic Research Bureau is a Chinatown venue known for progressive poetry events. For over 15 years they have produced some of the most avant-garde readings in the City of Angels. The stewards of the Bureau, Andrew Maxwell, Ara Shirinyan and Joseph Mosconi are plugged into both the local and national literary communities. They also have a small bookstore on site where hard to find poetry titles are stocked. The space also screens poetic documentaries and host book signings. On April 11, the Bureau will be featuring Gelare Khoshgozaran, Susan Schultz, and Daniela Seel. They usually have weekly readings on Saturdays and other unexpected poetic events.

Poetic Research Bureau
Gelare Khoshgozaran, Susan Schultz, and Daniela Seel, Saturday, April 11
951 Chung King Road
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Da Poetry Lounge | Photo: Da Poetry Lounge Facebook
Da Poetry Lounge | Photo: Da Poetry Lounge Facebook

Downbeat 720 is an open mic dedicated to high school poets and singer-songwriters that is sponsored by the City of Santa Monica. Hosted by Joe Hernandez-Kolski, with DJ Jedi and beatboxer in residence Joshua Silverstein. The event has been ongoing for over a dozen years and has produced hundreds of young poets and singer-songwriters. On the bottom of their invitation they always say, "Be the one who talks about it, not the one who hears about it." The event is held twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday at the Miles Memorial Playhouse just north of Wilshire. On Tuesday April 14, Downbeat will be featuring the Tony-Award-winning poet Mayda del Valle.

Downbeat 720
2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 7:20 p.m.
Tony Award-winning poet Mayda del Valle, Tuesday, April 14
1130 Lincoln Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural is the home base for Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez. Founded in the summer of 2001 by Rodriguez, his wife Maria Trinidad Rodriguez, their brother-in-law Enrique Sanchez, and artist Otto "Tito" Sturcke and Maria Flores, the Sylmar bookstore and poetry venue hosts a variety of poetry-related events. They also have special events on most weekends with a number of great authors, and they also work closely with Tia Chucha Press, which is now in its 25th year.

They host two open mics on Friday nights, at 6 p.m. and at 8 p.m. Frequent hosts in the space include Jeffery Martin, Rob Morrow and Victor Sotomayor. The earlier open mic is called Words of Womyn, and on April 17 they will feature Alexandra Hohmann. On Saturday April 25, Tia Chucha's along with the Los Angeles Poet Society will host a reading by L.A. Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez and L.A.'s first Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman.

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural
Open Mic every Friday, 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
L.A. Poet Laureates, April 17
13197 Gladstone Avenue, Unit A
Sylmar, CA 91342

Da Poetry Lounge is a mecca for spoken word and the epicenter for competitive Los Angeles poetry. April is not only National Poetry Month at the Greenway Court Theater where the weekly event is held, it is Slam season as well. Perhaps only the Green Mill in Chicago and the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City have produced as many hard hitting slam poets as Da Poetry Lounge. Hosted by Dante Basco, Shihan, Poetri and Gimel, they have been running it for over 15 years now. Show up early on a Tuesday if you want to read here, the list fills up quick. Notable Los Angeles poets like In-Q, Omari Hardwick, Bridget Gray, Sekou Andrews, Steve Connell and Def Sound have put it down here over the years. The Slam team finals will be held here on April 21.

Da Poetry Lounge
Every Tuesday, 9 p.m.
Slam Finals, Tuesday, April 21
544 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA, 90036

On Sunday April 26, the Los Angeles Poet Society, founded by Jessica Wilson, will feature Peggy Dobreer, Alice Pero, Don Kingfisher Campbell, Elmast Kozloyan, Raquel Reyes-Lopez, Ideas Aubrey, plus Song Poet Zack Zephyr in Tujunga at the McGroarty Arts Center.

Los Angeles Poet Society at McGroarty Arts Center
Saturday April 26, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
7570 McGroarty Terrace
Tujunga, CA 91042

RD Armstrong at The Last Sunday open mic | Photo: The Last Sunday Facebook
RD Armstrong at The Last Sunday open mic | Photo: The Last Sunday Facebook

The Last Sunday is a monthly open mic dedicated to providing a safe space for military veterans to share their creative work. The event is produced by Working Class Productions (Joe Gardner and Jennifer Brown) and Jerry Della Salla in conjunction with Keith Jeffreys and the United States Veterans Alliance. Joe Gardner told me, "The aim of The Last Sunday is to provide a comfortable and classy venue where the Veteran Artist can showcase their craft alongside their peers in the Los Angeles arts community." The first hour of the show is dedicated to visual arts, the next is an hour long open mic, and then an hour of features.

They usually have two features for each show. The show is not limited to veterans, they want to see and share with everyone. Bobby Strahan (Agent Motion) is the house emcee and Robert Rodriguez of Wanted Records provides music. On April 26, the event will feature Bill Friday and Deana Barone.

The Last Sunday at USVAA Theater
Sunday, April 26, 6-9 p.m.
10858 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90230

Gatsby Books in Long Beach hosts a number of readings, including the Cadence Collective on the 2nd Monday of every month. The hosts are G. Murray Thomas and Sarah Thursday. A cadre of Long Beach's most active poets can be frequently be found here, including the founder of Arroyo Seco Press, the writer Thomas R. Thomas. Gatsby also has a popular book club and is known for working closely with the Long Beach State Writers Program and writers like Gerald Locklin and Tyler Dilts. In addition to this, Gatsby's is probably the best place in Long Beach to find books of poetry. For the next Cadence Collective on Monday April 13 they will be featuring Sharon Venezio and JL Martindale.

Cadence Collective at Gatsby Books
2nd Mondays, 7 p.m.
5535 E. Spring Street
Long Beach, CA 90808

Redondo Poets is a longtime poetry venue in the South Bay, located inside the Coffee Cartel. The always free open mic is hosted by Jim Doane and Larry Colker. This month on Tuesdays, they will feature Teka-Lark Fleming on April 14, Kari Teryo on April 21, and the Write Bloody author Mindy Nettifee on April 28.

Redondo Poets at Coffee Cartel
Every Tuesday, 8:10 p.m.
1820 S. Catalina Avenue
Redondo Beach 90277

The World Stage in Leimert Park remains one of the most important poetry spaces in the city, with their history dating back over 25 years. Originally founded by jazz drummer Billy Higgins and legendary poet Kamau Daaood, the World Stage has been a central site for Los Angeles poetry. Poet Conney Williams is one of the main organizers and a great ambassador of the arts. Over the years writers like Pam Ward, S. Pearl Sharp, Michael Datcher, A.K. Toney and Peter J. Harris have played important roles at the Stage. Their celebrated workshop takes place every Wednesday night. For April they will be featuring readings on Wednesdays with a few surprise guests.

The World Stage
Every Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
4344 Degnan Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90008

Eso Won Books | Photo: Alvaro Parra

Before closing out this column I want to briefly highlight three great places to find poetry titles, in addition to the sites mentioned above, like Beyond Baroque, Gatsby Books, the Poetic Research Bureau, and Tia Chucha's.

Eso Won Books in Leimert Park is where I have bought dozens of books including a number of great poetry titles by writers like Amiri Baraka, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, and Haki Madhubuti. They are also where I found lesser known works by poets like Fred Moten and Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Eso Won Books
4327 Degnan Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90008

Read On Till Morning in San Pedro is one of the best places to find publications from local poets. Owner Christian Lozada is very supportive of local writers and has one of the most extensive selections of Southern California authors. Read On Till Morning hosts at least two readings each month, usually on Saturdays.

Read On Till Morning
112 East 22nd Street
San Pedro, CA

Small World Books has more poetry books than just about anywhere in the city. Tucked away along the Venice Boardwalk next to the Shorehouse Café, they have a great mix of poetry titles from both national presses and smaller publishers. Their cat Conan the Librarian is named for their prodigious variety of books.

Small World Books
1407 Ocean Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291

The literary landscape of Southern California is rich with landmarks, venues and hundreds of great poets. Take a drive on Santa Monica Boulevard and see the Lamppost Project, or visit any one of the aforementioned spaces mentioned above. This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Salute to these bookstores and venues for being epicenters in the geography of L.A. Letters.

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