Phil Taggart on “Living Askew”

Kudos to Phil Taggart for a rare feature in Ventura Life magazine detailing his extensive support of the Ventura-area poetry scene. The article also includes a striking combination of Phil’s poems overlaid against photos of his schizophrenic brother, Rick. A digital version of the entire magazine is available here. The “Living Askew” article begins on page 36. (Type 36 into the page display at the bottom, hit enter, and then double-click on the article to zoom in to a legible magnification.)

The current issue of Ventura Life also contains a complete reprint of Askew Issue 3, which Phil co-publishes, including one of my poems (page 126, at the bottom). It is rare for tireless supporters like Phil to receive recognition from mainstream press, and rare for new independent poetry publications (Askew being a broadsheet, no less) to get syndicated by more conventional channels — to have both happen at once is auspicious indeed.

Phil Taggart at Bart’s Books in Ojai

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

 — Gospel of Thomas, 70

Despite a tough week at work following our moving house, I felt compelled to finally make it out to Bart’s Outlaw Poets series to hear Phil Taggart read. I’m glad I did. I have been looking for ways to relate to deeply personal subject matter in my own work, and was moved by Phil’s commitment to the same. He read from a number of his “Rick Poems” — poems about his severely schizophrenic brother — which ranged from language poetry to a spare, conversational style. It is hard for me to say in concrete terms what I took away tonight, but suffice it to say I have a deepened and renewed respect for what Rilke might call “the difficult” — and the need to bring it forth with dignity and restraint.

Bell Arts Factory Reading in Ojai Valley News

‘Factory’ Floored

Ojai poet Peake discovers monthly readings at Bell Arts Factory in Ventura

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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.

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Jackson Wheeler at the Bell Arts Factory, Ventura

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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.