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On Poetry And Healing What’s Broken

November 30, 2016

Poet Christian Elder reads in Ventura Th. Dec. 1 7:30pm

This December, the 7:30pm Thursday night poetry series at the EP Foster library in the Topping Room (651 E. Main Street, Ventura) features three top notch poets, and my students and I will be there also.

Recently, I presented my poetry, my process, and some writing prompts to a creative writing class at Ventura College as a guest speaker. Beforehand, I spoke with the instructor about how this past year has been full of brokenness: my wrist broke, my feet broke, my sewer line broke, my CV joints broke, and even more dramatically, the earth broke and a sinkhole formed beside my house, breaking my foundation. For many of us, the foundation of our country seems broke following the recent election, and she asks me to focus on that idea. And so at this workshop, I talked about how writing can help us work through the brokenness, and sharing our writing in community can help with the healing. Writing and reading are both acts, and it is through action that we change the world.

In this confusing, broken time, poetry and poetry readings can be a sanctuary. After 9/11, I started a reading series that lasted for five years in Ventura “Spoken Word Salon” at Zoey’s Cafe. While that series is long gone, other readings continue, including the long standing weekly reading that Phil Taggart started 30 or so years ago, and that he hosts and curates today.

Now the Poet Laureate of Ventura County, Phil recently sent out an email in response to current events:

“We are living in a time of many concerning events that are steeped in anger, hate, violence…

Or as I like to call them, writing prompts.

I think it is our responsibility to address these issues (writing prompts). So much comes at us so quickly and some of it is both confusing and insulting… There’s a lot to cut through and that’s kind of our job.

Poetry has been called a dance with truth and we could use a little truth and a little dancing.

We are a community of poets and we need to be a community especially now. We have a lot of work to do but this is work that we do best.” He also quotes Jackson Wheeler’s poem, “Ars Poetica”:

“Words bear witness.”

Join us as we bear witness to the turmoil and the joy of our times. First up on December 1, guest host Friday Gretchen will introduce her long-time LA friend  Christian Elder who is a filmmaker, a writer, and a painter in addition to being a poet.  Born in Manhattan, New York, Christian grew up in Los Angeles, California where he still resides. His work has appeared in many journals and magazines including the Bicycle Review, Art/Life Magazine, Blue Satellite, Damaged Goods, The Dance of the Iguana, Sheila-Na-Gig, The Saturday Afternoon Journal, Lummox, and Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts in Los Angeles. Here’s the trailer for a film Christian wrote and directed:

Here’s a sample poem by Christian Elder:

pulp scripttease

i slept with a character
from my last screenplay

she drifted into my office
one night

a looker
with an adorable typeface

all high society
and low morals

cool dialogue
big tits of course

i laid her down on soft paper
and beat her out
’til the sun came

i offered her a cigarette
i poured her coffee
i grilled her some eggs

and she left me


On December 8 features Ventura poet and college teacher Fernando Salinas. Here’s his youtube channel and his video poem, “Sonya”:

The final feature in December occurs on the 15th with Chris Buckley, a professor at UC Riverside.

An open mic follows the featured readers and that’s when my students and I will be reading, with most of us planning on attending Dec. 8. Poetry happens at EP Foster Library in the Topping Room
every Thursday at 7:30pm. Future Thursday night featured readers at the Library (651 E. Main Street, Ventura) include poets from near and far like:

January 5 Laure-Anne Bosselar
January 12 Lauren Henley
January 19 Jessica Ceballos
January 26 Larry Barber
February 2 Amy Uyematsu
February 9 Lummix 5 reading
February 16 George Yatchisin
February 23 Lance Mason
March 2 Bruce Willard
March 9 Glenna Luschei
March 16 Carol V Davis
March 23 Marcus Van
March 30 Kali Bennett
April 6 John White
April 13 Jon Caligiuri – SPLASH!
May 4 Jerry Garcia
May 18 Ron Koertge and Kim Dower

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