Prologue: an apology
I decided to write a farewell letter to all those who I shared some poetry with at our university. I am happy to have met each of you. You were certainly instrumental in developing my public-poet-speaking-persona. School is good for trial and error and I would hope this letter inspires newer students to take advantage of the college environment of micro-reality in order to hone their voice and practice their art with others. I promise any sentimentality is merely an aftershock and quite harmless.
Dear poets and friends,
I would like to officially declare that the Society of Poetry has reached the end of its course. I am graduating this year and have no heir left to take the reigns, so Society of Poetry will become a foggy memory in the history of UCLA, treasured by only a few until it reaches mythic status (get started on the myth making, guys!).
I am very proud with all of our accomplishments and even my failures. Our first year together was dedicated to the formation of a very tight knit group of strangers who later became instrumental in the development of each individual’s public poetic voice. Among the more consistent members, Jax Meyers (Vice President), Finley Still, Cody Pridmore, Joel Pickell, and Francesca Holland, we shared many wonderful laughs and profound conversations (and savage arguments) and got to experience a feeling of community within poetry that I now understand is precious and rare. Some of the other “rogue” members, Kyle Barett, Kiyoshi Simon, Michelle LaBelle, and Chris Fleishman often brought in interesting works of poetry and participated in some conversations on the edge of insult, with a foot dipped in our near religious revelations.
I miss Jax dearly, whom shared many a school nights of drinking after our poetry group and with whom I made secrets and memories that I hope will be relived when we cross paths again. Her poetry reminded me of the raw power of honest sensuality that we can be so afraid of expressing within the sterile walls of our university campus. But there is meat under those walls. Thanks Jax for helping me carve that out.
I am very happy to have met each person in this group. Among the past members, Kyle Barett is now pursuing a masters in creative writing from the New School in New York and Michelle LaBelle put out her own DVD of poetic works along with a self-published book. Not that we had anything to do with it, but certainly it was a pleasure to have seen part of the poetic development in the life of both of these poets and others.
The second year of Society of Poetry was mostly spent in the creation of opportunities for various talented poets to share their voice. With the graduation of core members, the meetings dwindled a bit so I became the major and sole member and decided that events were the best rout for establishing tight collectives of poets on campus.
Among the readings, we got poets and non-poets together in a collective voice to read the entire poems in “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. Finley said that the collected feeling was of ‘electricity in the mind.’ I was surprised at the outcome of people and the interest in reading a work from another time, which proves that the written word can transcend through different periods and finds its home in the mouths of generations of ‘angel headed hipsters’ and new dreamers.
Thanks to the suggestion of artist and overall unique woman, Claire Kohne, we collected a group of poets, including Nathan McClain (who has basically won every major poetry award provided at UCLA), the stunning Claire Hellar and pleasantly confused Seth Newmeyer (and myself ) to read works in Kohne’s creation of A Garden Party at her studio venue (and installation project). People delighted in the quality of the work along with the beautiful environment envisioned by the artist (suspended apples and leaves nailed to the wall, outside inside in). I am eternally grateful to her for providing such a gorgeous place for the poetic word to flower.
I would like new student poets to find their place in the poetry scene at UCLA and in Los Angeles too (and if its not there, to create it). Our last reading was suggested by professor Brian Kim Stefans, who genuinely believes in the active promotion of undergraduate poetry on campus. I collected a group of new poets (among the previously mentioned minus Nathan) like the impossibly mysterious Jakob Eysz, shy yet surreal Stefan Karlsson, artist Claire Kohne, and Sarah Baker (who was born too late or too soon) to create videos alongside their poems.
Our L.A. L.A. Land, Poets poetry reading, which involved their videos playing as a backdrop to their reading, was an interesting experiment in mixed media and it proved the versatile talents that these poets have in the creation of various powerful mediums of expression. Although the videos were perhaps a distraction and the readings did not seem to be as harmonious as I expected (I could barely hear myself reading over the weirdness of my video), it was a risky chance to take and I am truly proud of the talent that was emanating from that room. Sometimes it takes certain sorts of errors to make some beautiful noise and open up future ideas.
For this quarter, I am unsure of where to take the Society of Poetry. I dream of at least one final reading in which we incorporate our talents in one mass communion of poetic works without a single voice. Claire Hellar suggested that we create a collaborative work. I am eager to see what emerges.
I am working on a publication that will emerge long after I graduate, but will hopefully still include some of UCLA’s voices. Isn’t that the objective? To take what we have learned while in ‘school’ and use our experiences and connections (I mean spiritual not economic) in our lives beyond the threshold….into the other-life before the after….and to many lives in between.
Hopefully someone else will take the reigns and try to create another community at the university…a major place of development and birth of future poets . Don’t be afraid of making a fool of yourself. Remember that failure and embarrassment are part of art. Keep an eye out for art and keep an eye out for one another. It was fun. See you later.
Laura V Rivera