21 Most-Mentioned Poets

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.
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Suzanne Lummis and Lynn Emanuel at the Ruskin

I made my way back in to Los Angeles tonight to hear Suzanne Lummis and Lynn Emanuel read at The Ruskin Art Club. Suzanne is always endearingly self-effacing and charming. She also really knows how to engage with an audience. Strangely, many have labeled her a performance poet for this reason when, in fact, I think she simply embodies all the right elements of an outstanding straight-up reading. She connects with each line of the poem, brings life to it without seeming artificial — all through her voice, each word clearly expressed but not curt or strained. She simply reads poems very well.

And what poems — an abundance of new work in her signature noir yet self-aware style. She seduces an audience into thinking they are getting entertainment — often with moments of humor, irony, and wit — but in the end her work always delivers art. She also read some timeless mainstays from her book In Danger. I am glad Val, who came with me, got to finally hear them. And I’m glad, of course, she came with me and made the ninety minute drive each way a stimulating delight.

Lynn Emanuel also read some of her most well-known works, including “White Dress” and “Blonde Bombshell”, which apparently Garrison Keillor has read in honor of Marilyn Monroe’s birthday. Her other work, from her newest book, is a significant departure from these more accessible poems with broad appeal. She attempts to investigate the relationship between reader and writer, between aspects of the mind and emotions, in dark, spare, strange, metapoetic works.

I finally got to learn about and experience a bit of the venerable Ruskin Art Club, which is reviving itself as a champion of the arts in Los Angeles. After the reading, I met up with two of my former classmates from Suzanne’s master class. It’s been about four years. Kathleen Tyler has just published his first book of poems, The Secret Box, and Jawanza Dumisani is circulating his second book to a select few publishers. He introduced me to a young poet who won a scholarship from The World Stage to study with Suzanne. It was heartening to hear that Jawanza is still hosting the writers workshop there each week, in the heart of the city, working to support the community and to provide opportunities for promising young poets.

We made our way home through considerable fog. It seems autumn has arrived in Southern California.

Featured Poet at the World Stage

I had the privilege of taking Suzanne Lummis’ poetry masterclass at the UCLA extension with Jawanza Dumisani a few years ago. Since then, he has taken over the role of coordinating the Anansi Writers Workshop at The World Stage from Michael Datcher. Jawanza called me up and asked if I would be their featured poet for one of their Wednesday night workshops. I was delighted.

If you haven’t visited The World Stage, it is a thriving community of jazz musicians and poets dedicated to their craft in an area of Los Angeles undergoing a kind of West Coast Harlem renaissance — Leimert Park. The World Stage at the heart of the community is great people at a great venue doing what they love. Well worth checking out.

Jawanza Dumisani at the World Stage

Originally Published on LitRave

Every once in a while a reading combines all the right elements and the alchemy of something truly memorable happens. Jawanza Dumisani’s featured reading and book signing at The World Stage tonight was one of those rare and precious events. It’s fitting that he returns to the place of his poetic origins to launch a stellar new book from FarStarFire Press called Stoetry. This was indeed a homecoming.

To hear Jawanza (“J.D.” to his close friends) read in his sonorous, careful way is always a privilege. But tonight was unmitigated delight. Some people are born to savor words, to spill rhythms that entrance and astound. Jawanza combines powerful artistic instinct with a dedication to craft that can only be called passion. To hear him speak is to hear the joy and essence of poem craft come alive.

The Los Angeles community has been gifted with a lush book from an inspired poet. Rarely have I left a reading feeling, like tonight, so unmistakably as though I had witnessed the miracle of birth.