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.
“A nation’s art is the expression of its soul.”
Though we must walk our own path, mentors can crucially point the way. The UCLA Extension Writers Program has a nice writeup on the path I have taken since enrolling in my first serious creative writing class with Angeleno poet Suzanne Lummis in 2004. She was a critical part of my formative development, and I remain truly grateful.
Another mentor who has had a strong influence on my relationship to poetry since that time is Marvin Bell. I love what he has to say about the writing life, and I love to hear him read. He also comes across well on camera.
I am therefore delighted to be hosting him, as a representative of the soul of my home nation, alongside the equally wise and soulful English poet Esther Morgan as part of the Transatlantic Poetry on Air reading series.
The best part? You don’t have to leave your living room to join me.
Details of that reading in September are here:
Our very next reading in August also promises to be outstanding, featuring Jane Hirshfield and George Szirtes:
Click here for the latest news and updates from the Transatlantic Poetry community
I just received my contributor’s copy of Volume Eight of Cider Press Review, which includes one poem inspired by the time I lived in central Los Angeles. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a poem by Kathleen Tyler, with whom I studied in Suzanne Lummis‘ masterclass several years ago, included in this volume chock full of another year’s worth of good poems.
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 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.
I had the opportunity to chat with my former teacher, Suzanne Lummis, at the Café Solo celebration. It is always stimulating to talk shop with her, but in this case something she said really got my wheels spinning. She mentioned that she is currently using the Open Windows anthology in her introductory poetry classes. Because one of my poems is featured in that anthology, this means her students are reading my work very carefully as part of their studies. What greater satisfaction could a writer want than to know others are reading their work with care? Somewhere I heard the average amount of time spent admiring a painting in a gallery is something like six seconds. Likewise, it seems all too common that we leaf through poetry books in a quick and cursory way. I know I am guilty of this as well.
But for all my rhapsodizing on the positive implications of Suzanne teaching one of my poems, it suddenly occured to me: my art has been assigned as homework. The dreaded drudgery of academic life that prevents parties, curtails social interaction, and keeps you from remaining in college forever: is homework. The moment turned sour at the thought of someone having to read what I wrote.
Yet thankfully, I recall the moment during a lecture at Mt. St. Mary’s (so far my only, but still treasured, poetry teaching experience) when I had the privilege of introducing a young college student to Pablo Neruda. She read Amor, America out loud in Spanish, and I could see a deep chord had been struck in her psyche as she described her ancestral homeland through Neruda’s eyes. To think my own homage to Neruda anthologized in Open Windows might possibly have a chance in itself of connecting some future student to the great legacy of poetry — well, that washes the bad taste from my mouth at the thought that my work has now become homework.