L.A. Is Lit: The Best Spoken-Word, Readings and Poetry in Town

By Falling James
FROM: L.A. Weekly

beyond_baroque_exterior“It is the distillation of articulate animals calling to each other across a great gulf.”

—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Poetry as Insurgent Art”

Spoken word is more popular than ever these days, with a seemingly endless array of live performances that pop up in a wide variety of formats and settings in the Los Angeles area. But what used to be a mainly underground pursuit — in which obsessive wordsmiths parsed and divined the arcane properties, hidden meanings and cryptic allusions buried in each loaded syllable of oblique poetry before a small crowd of like-minded true believers — has long since turned into a fairly mainstream spectator sport.

We don’t use the word “sport” lightly, as popular events such as the Moth and other poetry slams are more competitions in which storytellers compete for prizes and attention and are, more often than not, judged and ranked for their comedic abilities and personal charisma rather than their actual literary depth.

For those who crave to hear more artistically ambitious poetry and short fiction performed live, there are nonetheless a dizzying variety of places where subtle wordplay is appreciated, although one sometimes has to search carefully to discern the more adventurous and experimental spoken-word artisans amid the overriding clamor of actor types and comedians manqué shouting over one another in telling their personal anecdotes at generic storytelling events.

When it comes to spoken-word performances of genuine literary merit, choosing SoCal’s best venues can be a highly subjective experience, based as much on the power and immediacy of hearing a favorite writer breaking down her well-turned phrases in an intimate room as much as the setting itself. But a spectacular location doesn’t hurt. “The Annenberg Community Beach House rocks with Red Hen and other hybrid events in the most glorious sunset-at-the-beach environment,” marvels local poet Peggy Dobreer (Drop and Dazzle) about Red Hen Press’ recurring readings at the coastal enclave in Santa Monica. “Love so much of what Red Hen does: cross-cultural, cross-genre, always classy and kind to everyone.” Read Rest of Article Here

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