Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Poetry venues and their cover/minimum charges--plus "closed" vs. "feature with open-mike" readings.

I've been following an interesting difference of opinions on L.A. poet/host Angel Perales' Facebook wall.

One thread concerns small venues such as coffeehouses and the amounts they choose to charge as either a cover or a food-and-drink-minimum.  To me, either amount should top out around $3.00; charging $5.00 for a food-and-drink-minimum, as one L.A. venue is apparently doing, is gilding the profit lily a bit too much.

[This isn't likely to happen in our current recession economy, but it would be nice if more coffeehouses/venues/hosts would spend money in weekly papers to advertise venues and poets in a manner befitting comedy and music clubs.]

The other topic: the pros and cons of the "closed" (usually meaning one or more "star" poets with no open mike allowed) Poetry Event vs. the more traditional open-mike-plus-feature(s) reading.

And, as has been stated on Angel's wall, there are some "closed" readings that feature subpar poets and open-mikes studded with genuine talent (thinking back to my early days on the scene when the Midnight Special Bookstore and Poetic License readings had a high--and artistically diverse--percentage of poets who "killed").

Unfortunately, there's the myth (which is sometimes reality) of Eminent Poets not wanting open mikes as a form of quality control/poetry eugenics.

And there's also a myth that "closed" and carefully booked readings may be necessary to attract nonpoets to come to poetry venues.

As G. Murray Thomas (a man who has played a large role in shaping/encouraging the scene we have today) stated on Angel's wall, nonpoets do come to the popular Da Poetry Lounge slam readings at the Greenaway Court Theatre on Fairfax.

But there's the question about how "nonpoets" are defined.

Do hosts/bookers prefer nonpoets (at nonslam readings) to be highly-refined "literati", with potential audience members of middle-and-lower-brow tastes and interests to be tacitly discouraged from attending?

To read the full discussion of the issues mentioned above, Angel's Facebook page can be found at:

[UPDATE 8/31/11: G. Murray Thomas commented on the post above--
"When I talk about creating poetry events which appeal to non-poets, I am not talking about the literati. I'm talking about the average person going out for a night's entertainment (if you want to call them middle- or low-brow that's fine with me). I'm talking about shows which present poetry that average person can not only understand, but be entertained by. I'm talking about crowds similar to what you would find in an average club listening to bands."]


Monday, August 29, 2011

The DANCING WITH THE STARS cast I'd rather see for fall 2011.


Not sure if its the economy or a low opinion of the viewing audience, but, once again, the DANCING WITH THE STARS cast is rather underwhelming (Nancy Grace?  Kristin Cavillari?  David Arquette?).

Here are my choices:
a. Alec Baldwin
b. Warren Beatty
c. James Franco
d. Samuel L. Jackson
e. George Lopez
f.  Megan Fox
g. Valerie Bertinelli
h. Sherri Shepherd (think of the cross-promos with THE VIEW)
i.  Carla Hall (ditto for cross-promos with THE CHEW)
j.  Helen Mirren

Reprinting a comment from a July post of mine--plus my comment on SoCal poetry's musical chairs.

I agree with you about parts of the Southern California poetry "community." I'm fairly "new" to the scene, but I've had quite an amount of success in the larger world of poetry. More than most of those on the scene. The buddy-buddy nature of the cliques is grotesque. Talent doesn't matter as much as friendship. The same people feature at the same venues and they read the same poems. These folks don't see the world of poetry extends beyond LA and OC. Just ridiculous. Carry on...--commenter on July post I wrote about "my blog going on late-summer vacation."

Amplifying the above:
The SoCal community is like a game of musical chairs where it's exceedingly rare when people get up from their chairs to play.

Sure, some people (poet/RADIUS critic Carlye Archibeque being an example) disappear and reappear years later to regain their chairs-held-for-them.

And there's the occasional newcomer (the gracious Rapp Saloon host Elena Secota) who arrives on the scene and makes a positive impact.

But, for the most part, people stay where they are for decades like the Soviet politburo--rarely being generous enough to allow or invite newcomers or under-recognized veterans to break bread and share a bowl of borscht.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fearful of poetry community business as usual.

The LA/OC poetry communities has had/will have a number of  positive people in its ranks.

Yet I fear that for every Scott Wannberg and Ellyn Maybe, there are twenty people that define positivity solely in terms of giving poets a leg up only as long as they obey the rules of the clubhouse.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Poem for L.A./Oregon poet Scott Wannberg, who recently passed away:

you were blessed

with a light inside you

that converted everywhere you traveled

into a warm, inviting living room

where we could gather

and hear you in poem, story and song

the cattle rustler,

the snake oil salesman,

the purveyors of matters trivial and supercilious,

the holy pretenders who sold

zircon-coated unthinking obedience as Truth--

you let none of them disturb/distress you

as you traveled through this life

when it's time to pass into the Afterlife,

I can't wait to see you in its living room,

faithful, truth-loving canine companion Sparky by your side,

with more poems, stories and songs

about what was,

what is,

and what will be


Scott Wannberg 11/11/2009 at Mac's Backs in Cleveland Heights

RIP Scott Wannberg--poet and friend to other poets.

Just opened an e-mail and received the sad news that Scott Wannberg--a fine poet and representative of the best aspects of Los Angeles poetry--has passed away.

Immediate memories of Scott are these: his long tenure at the Duttons Brentwood store, where he curated the chapbook section (poets were assured of being paid for their work); also, there were his live readings which often began with a cappella covers of songs by John Prine.
Rip Rense's 1994 article about Scott and his poetry:
Kevin Roderick's article in L.A. OBSERVED:
Carolyn Kellogg's eulogy in the LOS ANGELES TIMES:

For now, I'll recommend that you visit http://www.lummoxpress.com/ for Scott's poetry published by RD Raindog Armstrong and go onto your favorite online booksite to buy a copy of STRANGE MOVIE FULL OF DEATH--a book published by Viggo Mortensen's Perceval Press.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Josh Wilker's critique of THE BAD NEWS BEARS IN BREAKING TRAINING--a passage reminding me of current SoCal poetry politics.

Soft Skull Press has been publishing a series of small books known as Deep Focus: A Novel Approach to Cinema where Name Authors write eloquently on what they consider to be seminal films.

Chicago-based author Josh Wilker chose the semi-forgotten THE BAD NEWS BEARS IN BREAKING TRAINING, the quickly-thrown-together 1977 sequel to Michael Ritchie and Bill Lancaster's classic 1976 original. (Needless to say, Ritchie and Lancaster--as well as original stars Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal--didn't return for the second film.)

Wilker, who was nine when he saw BREAKING TRAINING, does a fair amount of rhapsodizing about his own boyhood, along with some side detours into philosophizing about a 1970s he was too young to completely experience.

For those who remember BREAKING TRAINING, the hapless Bears play a more professional Little League team in the Houston Astrodome in the small window of time between an Astros double-header.
The powers that be want to halt the children's game early in order for the grown-ups to begin playing their second match of the day.  Both teams are shooed off the field by baseball officials--except for the perpetually idealistic Tanner (Chris Barnes), who stands his ground and refuses to leave.

Wilker talks about Jimmy Carter's much-mocked "malaise" speech from the summer of 1979 and its plea for "common interest and the restoration of American values" over what was already the looming spectre of Reagan-era self-interest and "I want more than you'll ever have."

Here's my favorite passage of Wilker's in the book:
I keep coming back to refuse disconnection, and I keep coming back to refuse the end.  And now we come to the climax of the movie.  Not the ultimately negligible, if structurally necessary, moment when Carmen scores the winning run, but the part that actually precedes that false climax, the part that begins when all seems to be lost, when the team is told, right in the middle of an early inning, that the game is over.  There are initial groans and protests about this, but they are all impotent, even Mike Leak [William Devane as the estranged father of Jackie Earle Haley's Kelly Leak] giving up after arguing for a while with the ump.  Everybody has given up and accepted the end, with one exception.

Tanner's still out there, standing alone.

[fast-forward through a passage about Watergate and Richard Nixon's resignation revealing "a system driven by corporate interests and not by the will of the people, contrary to the nation's dream of democracy."]

"Where's everybody going?" Tanner asks.  "We're not finished!"

Two men in suits advance toward him.  They are not evil.  They are not stand-ins for Nixon.  They are, in a way, worse.  They are functionaries, apologetic but assertive, pointing to their watches and invoking the god that rules the country, money.  The game is a commercial-driven diversion between the commercial-driven diversions of the first and second games of a doubleheader.  The important thing turns out to be the commercials.  They, and what they sell, and the corporations that rake in the profits, rule.  Everyone else has to get in line.  I'm sorry, the men in suits explain, but that's just the way it is.  And they advance toward Tanner to remove the last dissenter from the field.

Now re-read Wilker's words above--substituting "poetry", "MFA degrees", "prestige", "coffeehouse poets [imagine it being said with a sneer]", "creative writing programs", "journal-entry writing", etc. etc. when you feel it necessary.

Trust me, you'll see a synchronicity.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New poem: DOWNTOWN L.A. AUGUST 14, 2011

.ate a wonderful chopped vegetable salad

with ten-dollar grilled salmon on top

at a new restaurant

inhaibiting an old building

at the corner of 4th and Main Street

where I went down a long flight of stairs

to use the men's room

and saw pictures of the landmarks

of an earlier Los Angeles

(Bunker Hill, the original Pershing Square)

that were altered or deleted by Progress

and then afterwards

drove to Disney Hall,

got lost

trying to find REDCAT,

and noticed young people

wanting to be famous actors or models

using the upstairs ampitheater for a photo shoot--

and I wondered if the great Frank Gehry

would mind his grand silver creation

doing double duty

as a backdrop for headshots

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sugarland stage collapse tragedy--only the third accident of its kind this summer.



Let's flash back to the article in ROLLING STONE on the Flaming Lips stage collapse:

 "We simply want to know: what are the companies and organizers doing to protect the next act and the next audience?" Dave Frey, [Cheap Trick's] manager, said in a statement. "Every act and every fan ought to be asking the same question when attending an outside musical event."
Other prominent managers, however, insist stages are safe and fans have little to fear at outdoor concerts. "The regulations have become much more difficult. Health and safety have become much more a factor in everybody's budget in the last 10 to 15 years," says Jake Berry, production and technical director for U2's 360 tour. "But some stages can hold up to a freak wind better than others. You can't stop a tsunami in Japan, can you? These are acts of nature."

Three "acts of nature" too many.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Great moments in SPIN magazine's oral history of Nirvana and NEVERMIND.

From the August issue of SPIN re "the album that changed everything":
"Of course, now we have Lady Gaga, people with entire staffs constantly manipulating situations to create a monster-type famous person, but that wasn't the case with Nirvana."--Bob Nastonovich, Pavement.

"When NEVERMIND came out, somebody gave us a cassette and we thought it sounded so slick---like a Whitney Houston record."--Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, bemoaning the lack of rawness while calling Kurt Cobain "a really great pop songwriter."

"Kurt loved Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, and K Records.  He loved uncool shit too, like ABBA and The Knack.  And what's cool is, he couldn't give one shit about if it was cool.  I mean, really, it's hard to be cool when wearing one of my dresses."--Jennie Boddy, former Sub Pop Records publicist [Nirvana's debut BLEACH was a Sub Pop release]

"I really did love that ensemble they had with the drummer they had before Dave Grohl [presumably referring to Chad Channing]--that's no slag on Dave Grohl--there was just an element from BLEACH that we loved.  We played a couple of shows with them, maybe one in Seattle right around BLEACH, and backstage the mood at these Sub Pop shows was, you know, everyone was having a great time celebrating themselves.  And there was a feeling that Kurt couldn't let loose and be a dork, like "Fuck, I wish I was having more fun than I was."--Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips.

"NEVERMIND is the best Nirvana album, hands down.  Anyone who says it's IN UTERO is lying.  They're just trying to look cool."--Tom Gabel, Against Me!

"I'm not gonna apologize for the fact my mind wasn't blown/life wasn't changed by NEVERMIND.  We've all got our fantastic records.  I don't honestly expect SPIN to do a 30th anniversary feature on how [the Fall's] HEX ENDUCTION HOUR changed music, but it's a much, much better album by a far more important band--Gerard Cosley, Matador Records exec.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Russell Brand on rioting in London.

If we want to live in a society where people feel included, we must include them, where they feel represented, we must represent them and where they feel love and compassion for their communities then we, the members of that community, must find love and compassion for them.
As we sweep away the mistakes made in the selfish, nocturnal darkness we must ensure that, amidst the broken glass and sadness, we don't sweep away the youth lost amongst the shards in the shadows cast by the new dawn.

The above comments are from Russell Brand's column from the London GUARDIAN about the recent rioting in London. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/11/london-riots-davidcameron

Column is titled UK riots: Big Brother isn't watching you.

Matthew Mars (formerly Matthew Niblock) in tribute to the late Erica Erdman.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011


the jagged mountain

exploded impeccably and

cracked wide open,

creating a beautiful view

and now,

we can see there is a brain

that is incessantly inventive

hotwired to a delicious mouth

with lyrics caught between his teeth,

on his tongue,

lodged in his throat

see how

he opens his mouth

to sing