A poet named Merilene Murphy died of cancer Friday night in Los Angeles.
Have you ever heard of Merilene Murphy? I've been a poet in L.A. since 1998 and I wasn't aware of her existence until hearing of her illness a few weeks back. She was one of the leaders of Leimert Park's World Stage reading (author Michael Datcher was a more recent host)--a pre-eminent South L.A. venue.
I feel sad about her death, but that's not why I'm writing this entry.
Too many poets--living and deceased--in Los Angeles are unknown to portions of both the poetry community and the wider world of nonpoets. Some of this is by choice of certain members of our little tribe; they have a fierce belief in limiting the audience for their artistry and craft--and sometimes excercise unfortunate tendencies to be condescending or contemptuous towards what they consider the "stupid masses."
Another reason for being unknown is a certain reluctance to swing for the fences and aggressively promote their readings and venues. Some of this can be attributed to defeatism; the rest is a willingness to settle for the relatively cheap-to-free world of Internet websites, blogs and mass e-mails (resulting in little more than preaching to the choir).
Wouldn't it be great to see poetry readings advertised in at least the alternative weeklies to where more nonpoets might be aware of the diversity of poets/spoken word artists (don't worry, we're not all soporific) and the venues where they can be seen? And that means ACTUAL ADVERTISEMENTS and not just a listing in the "Readings" column.
I wonder if we will ever change our ways.