Poetrypalooza? A strange name for an even stranger event. But perhaps strange is the wrong term for this very special occasion. Maybe off-beat, exciting, enticing, captivating, or inspiring might be better adjectives. And now I’m getting ahead of myself. For more information about this event, I turned to Kimberly Cobian, the founder and creator of August’s celebration of the arts. I asked Kimberly a few questions regarding Poetrypalooza for purposes of clarification and our edification. Here are her responses:
What exactly is Poetrypalooza?
Poetrypalooza is the celebration of poetry in life. It celebrates the diverse voices & styles of poetry of Southern California and the muses that inspire us to create together such as: music, art, performance. It is a month long tour the ZZyZx WriterZ take every weekend in August to connect & create with all these diverse artistic hubs & neighborhoods. For example- San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, Greater Los Angeles, Downtown Los Angeles, South Bay/Long Beach, Downey, Claremont, Venice, Santa Monica, & so much more, touring 15 hubs total every August.
What was the inspiration for creating such an event?
I observed that all my writing friends hailed from different neighborhoods, & that each of them wrote with a distinct flavor. I wanted to take a tour with my GuyZ to celebrate & network with those communities to soak in the local ink of each the Art that unifies all of us, poetry.
Can you give us an idea of what goes on at one of these events?
Each night of Poetrypalooza is filled with a dynamic schedule of events. Each night features performances from one or a group of the local poets, musicians, performers, & a group featurette by the ZZyZx WriterZ representative of that particular neighborhood. The evening also boasts a poetry writing workshop conducted by a poet/educator for all to create & share. Each night also encourages community expression through various open Mic opportunities. A local artist or small group show is also on the agenda.
What are some of the features you have had on the tour?
We have featured poets from almost every Southern California artistic hub from the beaches to the valleys, from the cities to the suburbs. Every stop has a very talented group of poets who have been locally as well as nationally renowned. Luis J. Rodriguez, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Matt Sedillo, Two time National Grand Slam Poet Champion, Don Kingfisher Campbell, Santa Catalina Library Saturday Afternoon Poetry Workshop series & SGV POETRY Quarterly, Jessica Wilson Cardenas, Founder of the LA Poets Society, Writers Row, Writer Wednesday, Venice Soapbox Poets, Teka Lark, Black Grrl Press,…to name a few.
What goes on during the poetry workshops?
We invite a local poet to conduct a poetry writing workshop each night.
Poetry Writing workshops are also given to encourage spontaneous creations & community building between the local features, ZZyZx WriterZ & guests. It is a wonderful way to link everyone at the event. It is my favorite part of the evening, because people who have never written a poem in their lives or had felt discouraged or blocked to write something new open up to others there & share what they have just created. In this practice or ritual we create together, we are all poets, we are all equal.
What do you see as the future of Poetrypalooza?
This year the ZZyZx WriterZ & all of the Southern California poetry world celebrated its lustrum year. Poetrypalooza has toured for five years. ZZyZx and I feel it has grown to a capacity that all neighborhoods have adopted a version of this event in their hubs & venues. The event has grown organically connecting city to city, poet to poet, style to style, it does not have an end in sight, ever. However, as Event Director, I will step down next year & steer my writing group’s focus to another creative endeavor. We have left a legacy of community collaboration & I am confident it will live on among the communities we visited.
Who are some of the writing groups who have helped with Poetrypalooza?
The ZZyZx WriterZ have collaborated with dozens of writing groups throughout the years, namely the Coffee House Writers Group, Sunday Jump, Nuvein Foundation for Literature & the Arts, Los Angeles Poets Society, Street Poets, The Art Movement of El Monte, Beyond Baroque, Downey Arts Coalition/The Green Salon, Whittier Poetry Group, Moonday Poets, Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga, Tia Chuchas Cultural Center in Sylmar, NoHo Poets, Long Beach Cadence Collective.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
The ZZyZx WriterZ & I want to express our humblest gratitude to everyone who has collaborated with us on this five year long journey. We have inspired others & each other through poetry. We have made lasting friendships through poetry. We have created new forms of expression through poetry. Thank you. ¡Viva Poetrypalooza!
So how did the Coffee House Writers Group first get involved in Poetrypalooza? CHWG and ZZyZx WriterZ began their collaboration in Covina three years ago offering poetry, a poetry workshop and photography, then branched out to Claremont and Pomona in the following years. This year, the CHWG and Poetrypalooza again joined forces at the Buddhamouse in Claremont where Andrew Turner and Rick Stepp-Bolling were the featured poets, Andrew Turner gave a poetry workshop, and music by The Dead Letter Office and poetry by ZZyZx WriterZ entertained the audience.
Poetrypalooza and similar cultural events remind us that the arts are not dead in Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, poetry, art and music are very much alive and kicking in August. Thanks to Kimberly Cobian and poets like her, the spirit of Poetrypalooza will live on and flourish in Southern California.