by Brian Dunlap
Friday was the second edition of the open mic Poetry y Pan at Café con Libros in Pomona, hosted by poets and educators Irene Sanchez and Matt Sedillo. The Reading began shortly after 7:30 pm, the Arts District coming to life with music and food. Next door it sounded like a band was playing a familiar Green Day song, kicking off the weekend.
The feature Besskepp had yet to arrive and in the back sat a pink box of pan for readers and audience alike. The population inside the two-month-old lending library appeared close to 15. When things kicked off Matt Sedillo made quick introductions, then announced the first open mic reader.
The evening was off.
All evening the atmosphere was warm and the poetry mostly political. These poems were written by people across the spectrum—white, Latino/a, black, men, women, educators, working class and Irene Sanchez who’s also a PhD doctor—who wrote from their experiences with America’s racism and how it affects their lives and/or their communities, or the educational system, or race and place in L.A. Words and ideas these poets need to express so they can be heard and to build or find community.
The Besskepp stepped up to the mic. He was introduced as the co-founder of one of the Southland’s longest running open mics: A Mic and Dim Lights. He’s been providing space for literary scribes to perform their work in Pomona for the past 17 years at The dA Center for the Arts. As he said at one point between poems, he started A Mic and Dim Lights because the literary activity around the Southland seemed to stop at the 605. Having come up through the spoken word world, Besskepp found himself always going to L.A. to perform.
The poems Besskepp performed stayed with the themes that had been expressed all night. Since he is a special ed teacher, he performed two poems inspired by his students’ needs, combining the personal with the political. The audience was captivated.
After Besskepp’s performance, anyone who was too shy to read earlier or came late got a change to share. One man who read two comedic poems was already establishing himself as a regular, as he had read at Poetry y Pan’s debut last month.
The community that showed was a bit shy and hesitant, but that’s to be expected with such a new open mic. Once the open mic ended, enough (half?) of those in attendance lingered to strike up good, warm conversation.
To all those scribes who live far from Pomona, get out to Poetry y Pan at least once. To all others who live east of the 605, make it one of the regular open mics you attend/read at. And to the non-writer literary lovers out near Pomona, attend to hear powerful literature.
NOTE: Café con Libros is a two-month-old lending library-nonprofit, located at 280 W. Second street in Pomona’s arts district. The owners, Adi and Pati, as stated on Café con Libros’ Facebook page, opened the original Café con Libros as a bookstore in downtown Pomona twenty years ago. These Latinas and first generation college grads, made the store reflect their experiences, by reflecting multicultural Southern California. However, after a few years it closed. Adi and Pati opened the new Café con Libros to “provide a space that creates community, that nurtures creativity and literacy in all its forms.”