Saturday, November 17, 2007

A gathering of too few poets in Santa Monica.

Last night, I attended the seventh anniversary celebration of a poetry venue in Santa Monica.

I remember how the venue began.

Once upon a time, there was an Affluent Progressive Bookstore on the Santa Monica Promenade (now closed).  The APB's owner, who disliked the Friday evening poetry host (even though his readings were quite well-attended and appreciated), relieved him of his volunteer position.

With the aid of a now-deceased icon of local poetry (a generous man and one of the best performance poets I've ever witnessed), the former APB poetry host was able to find a venue on Second Street.

Since the fall of 2000, The Rapp Saloon (located in the International Youth Hostel) has displayed the talents of various in-town and touring poets, spoken word artists, musicians and comedians.  And it has allowed poets of various political persuasions to speak their minds during their time at the podium.

Last night, I was expecting a seventh anniversary celebration  with all four of the current hosts in attendance as well as several of the former hosts of the Rapp.  And I was also hoping to see a fair-sized cross section of poets currently and formerly active at the venue.

Unfortunately, the attendance was sparse: only two of the four current hosts, plus the founding host referred to in the above paragraphs.  Two nonpoets in the audience, one veteran stand-up comic/poet, one performance poet active on the scene since the 90s, one young male poet, one poet now living in Oregon and myself.

At this point, I could go on a rant about how generosity goes underappreciated (one of tonight's hosts even took the time and effort to provide food and drink at the reading's close)  and how the poetry community is more than ever a version of the school playground where alliances, paying proper "respect" to those perceived to have power (and influence on booking) and being "published" by literary journals/small presses with "high standards" are the things Los Angeles poets value most.  Not to mention bathing in a sort of smugness as to how they're better-informed, more sensitive, more eager to pre-empt "negative" behavior and more politically aware than just about everyone else in Los Angeles/Orange Counties.

But I haven't been to the Rapp too often in the last couple of years, so the rant would sound rather hollow.

Instead, I'll be positive and praise The Rapp Saloon for still being a venue that practices democracy in its weekly gathering of poets from many, if not all, portions of the local community.

And I'll be more than happy to return for the eighth anniversary next year.


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