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Fringe Festival : OUT WITH TRADITIONAL, DULL POETRY READINGS

September 25, 1987|JULIE WHEELOCK

People who think that poetry readings are stuffy, self-indulgent and boring may change their minds if they drop in on "Poetry Goes to the Movies" on Monday.

The Fringe Festival event, a program of readings and performances about movies by poets and actors at 8 p.m. at Barnsdall Art Gallery Theater, 4804 Hollywood Blvd., will be "a fantastic party," promises Victor di Suvero, Poetry Festival L. A. director. "Traditional readings can be dull," he acknowledges, "but all of our Festival events will have fire, life and fun."

Monday's host, poet/actor/screenwriter Michael Lally, describes the evening as a "spontaneous" event that "will showcase the oldest art form, poetry, facing the newest movies."

Among the dozen or so performers are actors Ed Begley, Jr. and Henry Gibson. Begley, noting that the evening is unrehearsed, says, "I like cold readings. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

The program is one of many Poetry Festival L. A. events in the days ahead. "The variety of voices being exposed has to be encouraging for the future of local poetry," Gibson says. "It's like opening windows and letting the air in."

Some of the upcoming events will include open readings in many Southland locations, and more "theme" evenings: poetry and video ("Poetry on TV," Tuesday at EZTV); poetry and the absolute ("Poetry as Sacred," Wednesday at Barnsdall Art Gallery Theater); poetry and societal concerns ("Urban Fire," Oct. 2 at Barnsdall Art Gallery Theater); and poetry and erotica ("Love and Erotic Poetry Readings," Oct. 9 at Main Street Dance Studio, Santa Monica).

One evening, what di Suvero jokingly calls "a sort of Marine hymn, from the mountains to the freeways," will explore the essence of Los Angeles ("L.A. Poetry/Poetry, L.A.," Thursday, at Barnsdall Art Gallery Theater). There will be a tribute to veteran local poet Charles Bukowski (Oct. 3, at Barnsdall Art Gallery Theater) and an evening of poetry and music ("Poetry Rocks," Oct. 7 at Lhasa Club).

According to Lally, there is once more a trend for the latter alliance, which was so prevalent in the 1950s. "A lot of punk rockers and New Wave musicians were originally poets," he points out, "a sort of extension of the Beats. They like to get their message across in that personal way. Bukowski made that style attractive--he was a pioneer. Now it's getting a lot of attention in clubs, which adds to the increasing popularity of poetry in general."

In sprawling Los Angeles County, unity is often an amorphous concept and for poets, who tend to lead solitary working lives, it can be nonexistent. So the fact that a fair number of local poets are participating in the Poetry Festival is gratifying to di Suvero and his co-directors.

"We knew we wanted poetry to be represented in the Fringe," he says, "and we needed a sponsor to do it. So we invented one:the Los Angeles Poetry Collective (a non-incorporated service association). Then we called on the poetry community for ideas and help. Those who responded first were nonacademics, the unaffiliated and the disenfranchised street poets. As word got out, more and more people wanted to join us and we all did a lot of brainstorming. By creating the 'theme' evenings we were able to get people together and now the nonacademic community is beginning to flourish. We hope it continues."

Lally adds, "By organizing the Poetry Festival, Victor has given an opportunity to those who get the least amount of notice. He's absolutely stirred something up."

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