Speaking of community, when I was living in the West Adams district of Los Angeles, I spent time at The Anansi Writers Workshop. The following interview, courtesy the Poetry.LA project, does an excellent job of summarizing the impact and importance of this generous tradition of poets supporting poets in L.A.
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 was reminded on Wednesday night of one of the true gems of Los Angeles that I am going to miss: The World Stage. I took a friend of mine (and a talented poet) who is new to LA over to the Anansi Writer’s Workshop. It is a privilege and pleasure to workshop poems with such dedicated craftsmen. In the middle of a particularly stressful week between work and moving, a real discussion of The Craft was nothing short of totally therapeutic.
Of course, other gems I will miss in this city include Hide Sushi, Urth Caffé and Peace Labyrinth and Gardens, my home here for several years. Other than that, it’s really the the people that I will miss most. Yet I’m sure the waiting list for our guest room in Ojai will soon fill up with friendly visitors. And living in the country again will be priceless.
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.
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.