Highgate Poets Website

In 2006, after moving to Ojai, California from Los Angeles, I helped redesign the Ojai Poetry Festival website. Drawing inspiration from print designs by the late Hope Frasier, I outfitted the site with a newsletter, RSS news feed, and online ticket sales system, as well as information about headliner poets and photos from past events. The site served the group well for several seasons, until the festival recently went into hibernation for financial reasons.

Having recently moved to North London and joined the Highgate Poets, I seized the opportunity to help them put up their new website soon after being accepted into the group. What took weeks of custom programming to create the content management system for the Ojai Poetry Festival only took a matter of hours this time, owing to advances in the WordPress blog software.

Thanks also to a host of software plugins, the site not only features member news, but has a calendar of events, newsletter, integration with the group’s Twitter account, and much more. Going forward, options for selling anthologies on the site or enriching the list of members with more detail is just clicks away.

It is a pleasure to be associated with such a fine group of poets, actively writing and publishing in the UK, and remarkable to see how open source software such as WordPress makes setting up a dynamic website easier all the time.

Ojai Poetry: the Show Goes On!

“When the Ojai Poetry Festival in Ojai, Calif., was called off late last year, in part because of budget concerns, local poet Tree Bernstein helped form a separate group to revive the event. The original festival drew about 700 people to an amphitheater in May, and featured nationally known poets. Ms. Bernstein plans to reduce costs by choosing less expensive venues and focusing on regional talent.”

Hats off to the Ojai Valley Poetry Association for picking up the banner and carrying on the tradition of bringing poetry to Ojai. They have just announced the schedule for the Ojai Valley Poetry Fest on June 6th at the Ojai Art Center .

The free Poetry Fest Day Program begins at noon and includes performances by teens and seniors, Santa Barbara poet laureates, the Razor Babes, and Hispanic poets. Open mic signup also begins at noon for the afternoon session. A workshop in ecstatic Persian poetry, and “Word as Song,” combining poetry and music, complete the afternoon.

The Evening Program features L.A. poets Wanda Coleman and Frank T. Rios , and Ventura Country favorites Marsha de la O. and Jackson Wheeler . Tickets for the evening program are on sale now at Bart’s Books , Ojai Creates , Ojai House, and will be available at the door. Ticket price is $10 (cash only.)

For more information call John Kertisz at 805-640-1508 or email Tree Bernstein at Ojai Poets at gmail dot com.

Poetry Reading This Sunday in Ojai

The Montgomery Street Playhouse will be hosting a benefit for the Ojai Valley Poetry Fest on Sunday, April 5th from 2?5 PM, featuring poets Polly Bee, Robert Peake, and Ellen Johnson. The playhouse is located at 309 North Montgomery Street, between Jones & Co and Soul Centered. Suggested donation is $5. Beverages and light refreshments will be served alongside well-chosen words.

The Ojai Valley Poetry Fest is a grass-roots effort to keep the spirit of the Ojai Poetry Festival alive, featuring poetry, workshops, and events on June 6 at the Ojai Art Center. For more information, please contact Tree Bernstein at OjaiPoets [AT] gmail [DOT] com, or call John Kertisz at 805-640-1508.

Poetry Gets Local

Ojai Valley Poetry Fest 2009Out of the ashes of the official Ojai Poetry Festival, a group of enthusiastic local volunteers has banded together to bring a new event to Ojai: The Ojai Valley Poetry Fest on June 6th, 2009 at the Ojai Art Center. The event will feature Wanda Coleman, Frank T. Rios, Jackson Wheeler, and Marsha de la O.

The group is also looking for local poets to host and perform half-hour to hour-long segments throughout the day of the festival, and volunteers in all aspects of the event. Admission is free in exchange for volunteering on the day of the event. To apply for the poetry program, send a short proposal — 100 words or fewer — along with the number of poets involved to: OjaiPoets@gmail.com by April 1, 2009.

Click here for more details about this exciting new event.

Poetry and the Economy

The EconomyI had the poignant duty of sending out the email newsletter announcement last night that the 2009 Ojai Poetry Festival has been cancelled. The current financial situation has affected our founders, our prospective donors, and our hopes for ticket sales considerably. So, the committee is conserving its resources in hopes of reviving the festival in 2011. Having already sent hundreds of emails and made numerous updates to the website in anticipation of such a great lineup, I am, needless to say, disappointed.

And yet, I am heartened by the absolute flurry of poetry events passing through in recent weeks. A small but formidable group of women poets are hosting a reading in a beautiful backyard just around the corner from me. The names of two fellow students from long ago found their way to me in announcements of their separate readings. Others seem to be driving up and down the California coast reading poems associated with their recent prize, or book, or just because there seems to be a hungry market for poetry right now.

In some cases, the marketplace of poetry does intersect with the financial marketplace. Those poets who have managed to in some way cobble together a lifestyle of writing and teaching poetry are likely influenced by the recent economic downturn. Yet there exists a separate marketplace for poetry wherein supply can be measured in willing voices, and demand in eager ears. This marketplace seems to work almost inversely to the financial marketplace, in that difficult times bring us back to the necessity of art.

Writing poems is, in many senses of the word, “free.” And during times when it can be difficult to be generous materially, opportunities to be generous with one’s time and creativity seem to represent an outlet for hope. Attending readings, buying and borrowing books of poems, is generally inexpensive. Yet the payoff is significant. From a small investment of time, an enrichment of perception. Therefore, as the stock markets, and other markets, continue to rattle and roll, I say let us all invest our human currency — in reading, writing, and listening to great poems.

2007 Ojai Poetry Festival

The 2007 Ojai Poetry Festival has come and gone. Whew! We started deep planning back in 2006 — and the day-and-a-half of readings and discussions, as well as all the between-the-lines schmoozing and feasting — absolutely flew by. It was great to have Sandra Alcosser in town. She teaches at Pacific, and I was really impressed, during the January residency, with her generosity and keen interest in each student’s development. She gave up her lunch hours to meet with us individually and discuss the larger project of our work as a whole. A truly delightful woman, and a force to be reckoned with in the intersection between environmentalism and art.

She gave a dynamite reading alongside Sherman Alexie on Friday night. Alexie is a natural entertainer and wry comedian. He interspersed observational humor into poems of deep pathos about growing up on the reservation. He rarely missed an opportunity to quip about the insular attitudes of white liberals or to denounce himself as a “bad indian” for his modern urban lifestyle. He is no doubt a complex person grappling with many issues both personal and universal, articulating through the funny and poignant, glib and sincere.

María Meléndez read from what can only be called the most experimental body of work in the group — involving song, audience participation, word fragments and pictograms (such as a hand with upraised middle finger) printed in the middle of her poems. Alongside Alcosser and Gary Snyder, she spoke about the intersection of art and science during the Saturday morning panel. This is a topic squarely in Alcosser’s domain as well, who is fresh from a project of choosing nature poems to display in Central Park — a project which is reputed to have raised environmental awareness by 48% among the park’s four million visitors per year.

A host of outstanding regional poets read on Saturday afternoon — equally eclectic and engaging. The festival closed on Sunday night with Gary Snyder reading at length from Danger on Peaks and discussing the environmental implications of poetry and Buddhist philosophy — including how hope and compassion can reign even in the face of death. Both evenings all four poets were joined by a chorus of spring peepers, crickets and birds. Sunday night we were also treated to Venus in almost perfect conjunction with a crescent moon — like a great question mark blazing in the night sky.

I am grateful for having played my small part in bringing this festival to Ojai for another season and, frankly, glad to know it is all done — and done well. Thanks to all four poets for gracing us with their presences, to the regional poets and all the tireless organizers and volunteers — especially Tami Haggard and Jim Lenfestey — for bringing another magical season of poetry to Ojai’s Libbey Bowl.