As the year comes to a close, I find myself in a reflective mood. Having compiled a list of the more than 350 poets I have mentioned on my website since I began writing about poetry in 2003, I was curious to discover which poets I have mentioned most often in the last ten years.
What follows is that list of poets — most alive, some dead; most writing in English, some not; many I have met, some I won’t and never will. Click on the name or image for a brief summary of who each one is and and what they mean to me, and to read what I have written about them over the years.
When I first moved to Ventura County from Los Angeles, I skeptically but diligently began investigating the local poetry scene. What I discovered was a diverse, thriving community that welcomed me quickly. I spent a formative six years here, including two years in a low-residency MFA in writing program, trying out new poems at the Artists’ Union Gallery on Tuesday nights.
How perfect then, having been featured at one of the first “Friday on Saturday” readings five years ago, to read poems from my new collection Human Shade to the community that has become a poetic family to me. Doris once again baked cookies, which prompted a man from the street to burst in while I was reading a poem. Fortunately Friday, outwardly graceful, but with a core of steel, makes not only a lovely emcee but an efficient bouncer. I re-read the poem.
I will miss this enthusiastic and quirky community of artists and word lovers. While this was my last featured reading before we leave for London, I do have two ensemble readings schedule for April: at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum on Sunday, April 10th at 7:00 PM, and at Frank Picture Gallery in Santa Monica on Thursday, April 14th at 8:00 PM. If you are in Southern California, perhaps I will see you there for a little sweet sorrow before I go.
I had a great time at the “Friday On Saturday” reading at the Bell Arts Factory tonight. The open mic was one strong poem after another. I read about a dozen poems, mostly newer work including poems from my application to Pacific. I felt well received and appreciated the opportunity to read as a featured poet again (I have been on hiatus for over four years). People hung around long after the evening officially ended, enjoying the coffee and cookies.
The series will take a break in December and January, so I will looking forward to more great evenings of poetry starting up again in February. Thanks to Friday Lubina for another great event, and also to my sister Lisa Peake for putting up fliers in Ventura and Ojai to let people know about the reading. I met some new poets and poetry fans tonight, and appreciate the community support.
My first night at the Bell Arts Factory, I heard Cathryn Andresen read a pantoum and was mesmerized. That experience, in part, helped me realize some of the potential of formal poetry in my own work. Tonight she read a wide range of forms: rhyming, free verse, limericks, and kimo, showcasing poems largely forged in local workshops. The mood varied from light sexy humor to aching trauma, and she demonstrated a strong commitment to vulnerability, insight, and craft.
This series has emerged as a strong supportive force in the community thanks to Friday Lubina. She has just the right mix of poise, humor, and tireless cheerleading to keep the evening focused yet relaxed and above all highly positive. I’m really looking forward to reading there next month.
Ojai poet Peake discovers monthly readings at Bell Arts Factory in Ventura
When Robert Peake moved to Ojai from Los Angeles nearly two years ago, he thought he was leaving behind a thriving community of poetry readings. Then he discovered a monthly reading series at the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura. “Apparently the series started in June. I went to the July reading and was blown away,” Peake says, “The commitment to poetry in that room was easily on par with other series where I have been featured, such as the World Stage in Los Angeles and Beyond Baroque in Venice.”
Peake studied poetry at U.C. Berkeley before moving to Los Angeles. There, he won an award for poetry sponsored in part by the NEA and was published in several journals and anthologies. He is also a former student of LA-based poet Suzanne Lummis, who was one of four poets featured at the Ojai Poetry Festival last year.
Peake will be the featured reader at the Bell Arts Factory series on November 25th at 7:30 PM. “I’m thrilled and delighted,” he says, “there is definitely something special going on here.”
Friday Lubina, who hosts the reading series, agrees. “I’m most pleased with the incredibly welcoming atmosphere generated by the attendees at the Bell Arts Series. These people are here to support one another and it just plain feels good.” Lubina was approached to host the new reading series by Phil Taggart, co-editor of the poetry magazine Askew, who promised to help her get it off the ground.
Formerly the Bell Mattress Factory, the Bell Arts Factory is a multipurpose community arts center in what used to be the factory showroom. The nonprofit organization behind the venue seeks to enhance young lives through the arts, and to help lead greater cultural revitalization of Ventura County.
The Bell Arts Factory is located at 432 N. Ventura Ave. in Ventura. The poetry reading series happens on the last Saturday of every month at 7:30 PM. Bring one poem to read during the open mic portion of the evening.
From: “‘Factory Floored.” Ojai Valley News 27 October 2006: A9.
“I’m glad to be here. At my age, I’m glad to be anywhere.” So Doris, at 83, opened her featured reading at the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura with all the fire and energy of a sixteen year old. In addition to delightful, and often (refreshingly) funny poems she brought cookies that were out of this world. If you are in the Los Angeles / Ventura / Santa Barbara area and you haven’t discovered this new reading series yet, you are in for a treat: the venue is fantastic, the people are real, and the quality of work is a cut above. Kudos to Friday Lubina for hosting another great evening.