It was an honor to read poetry at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard last night with Jamey Hecht. Jackson Wheeler has been running the Arcade Poetry Series for over twenty years, and Andrew Carnegie’s neoclassical bequest has played home to the series for the past decade. It is a charming venue, and Jackson is a gracious host.
Jamey read from his new collection, Limousine Midnight Blue, with the boldness and intensity of a talented stage actor, bringing to life his treatise on the Kennedy assassination and its harrowing repercussions. He also read from his translations of Sophocles, including passages from “Oedipus Rex” that brought this old classics warhorse vividly into the present, stamping and snorting.
Another treat was the opportunity to finally meet Glenna Luschei. Also, Fiona and Cameron from Lettre Sauvage showed up with their beautiful letterpress works. Their book-arts chapbooks, broadsides, and other printed paper craft can only be fully appreciated in person. Kudos to them for re-imagining the place of the printed book in the digital age.
And thanks most especially to Jackson, for his effusive generosity of spirit, which makes this series a local treasure.
Due in part to a migraine at the end of a long week, I once again didn’t manage to make it to the Outlaw Poets reading on Friday night. However, I did finally make it out to the Arcade Poetry Series reading in Oxnard last night to hear Dian Sousa and Jimm Cushing. The venue was one of the countless libraries built by Andrew Carnegie around the turn of the last century — a multi-story white Neoclassical renovated into a spacious visual art gallery. The exhibit of photographs from Tibet, currently on display until May 20th, was worth the $3 admission in itself.
Dian Sousa read exuberant poems from her first and (newly published) second collection of poems. Her work exhibits a voracious creativity and tremendous capacity for unique image and metaphor. She read longer poems with strong narrative threads, though if there is any fault with this vigorous work, Sousa might benefit from striking out the occasional weaker line, striving for greater compression. Still, she read extremely well, entertaining and edifying the thirty-person audience with some truly magical themes. Her work is exciting, original, and vibrant — expressing her belief, which she shared that night, that “if you’re not in love with the world every day, you can lose your job as a poet.”
Jackson Wheeler, who hosts this series now in its eighteenth year, introduced Jimm Cushing with a highly flattering quote from W.S. Merwyn about Cushing’s earlier work, illustrating Cushing’s prestigious lineage. Cushing began his reading with a sampling of poems by a variety of other authors published by Cahuenga Press. His generosity, and belief in poetry as a discipline best nurtured by collaboration rather than competition, shone through in his obvious appreciation of these other poets.
I had the privilege of attending a celebration of (Cafe) SOLO and its patron saint, Glenna Luschei tonight at the Artists’ Union Gallery in Ventura. Hosted by its principal editors, Kevin Patrick Sullivan, Chryss Yost, and Jackson Wheeler, the event celebrating a magnificent forty years of publication featured forty poets published in this iconic literary periodical. Poets gathered here to read from Ventura, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Luis Obispo counties as well as one poet from New York. Just a few of the remarkable readers gathered this evening included: the omnipresent Richard Beban, Doris Vernon, Enid Osborne, Teka-Lark Lo, Mel Weisberg, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Barry Spacks, and my own master class teacher and the coordinator of the LA Poetry Festival, Suzanne Lummis. Poets spoke of and paid tribute to the generous spirit of Glenna Luschei and the achievement of such a long run of such a venerable and significant publication. The place was packed, the night was warm. I’m told the cake was excellent. Better still, the poetry, the spirit of the place, and the celebration.
How often do you go to a poetry reading and win a prize? In addition to hearing a great reading by Jackson Wheeler tonight, my birthday was close enough to the date of the 1994 Ventura Poetry Festival that I won one of the twenty original print posters advertising the event. It’s a nice piece, and from what I hear was a great event. I had the good fortune of meeting Phil Taggart at the Cobalt earlier this week, and he turned me on to this reading series at the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura. I can honestly say the quality of poems presented at the open mic before and after the feature seemed an order of magnitude more sophisticated than almost any open mic I’ve been to in Los Angeles. Hosted by a charismatic young lady known only as Friday, the series was well attended in a spacious, clean (!) venue. And the feature, the open mic readers, and the feel of the place was extremely positive. I feel like I’ve found a real gem in my own backyard.