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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE

To Attract Readers, Costa Mesa Poet Turns to Palette and Brush

October 13, 2000|CLAUDIA FIGUEROA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Self-published Costa Mesa poet Dennis Askew is constantly searching for venues to expose his work to the public. His latest angle? Becoming an artist.

His current exhibit, "Message of Love," is on display at Borders Books, Cafe & Music in Costa Mesa and showcases his poetry on a dozen ink and watercolor paintings.

It's an expansion of a three-volume series of poems he wrote during the last 10 years called "The Big World Of Love." In it, Askew explores human emotions from "divine love" to the more mundane affection for an old pair of comfortable shoes.

The paintings help sell the poetry even though they're pretty basic, he said.

"When you're not a skilled painter, you wind up using simplicity," Askew said. "But in my case, if you're a poet and you happen to paint, then people are going to be more gracious about your painting skills."

Askew has acquired lots of skills in his unconventional career. He once worked as an entertainment writer for the Las Vegas Sun and held various jobs in financial institutions before pursuing a career in creative writing.

He has a handful of books and a screenplay to his credit. His poetry is on the shelves of a few dozen mom-and-pop bookstores around the country, including Pageant Books in Manhattan and City Lights in San Francisco.

Askew is an avid believer in promoting your own talent. It's a system that works for him.

His series "The Big World Of Love" is available on the Internet through Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble. In upcoming months, he will exhibit at Borders in Brea, Mission Viejo and South Coast Plaza. In a single month his 160-page Web site received more than 5,000 new visitors.

Not too shabby for a do-it-yourselfer, but Askew says it isn't easy. "You have to go out and knock on a lot of doors and shake people's hands," he explained. "You can't be afraid. If you are, nothing will happen. If you want to make any sort of an impact on people, you're going to have to stick with it. And it's a long haul."

The exhibit, which opened six months ago, has drawn attention from poetry fans and art collectors alike. But Askew has no intention of selling his love-themed paintings.

"I'm just trying to spread a little love around, and that's it," he said. "It might make somebody think of something or remember something they haven't thought about in a long time. Or maybe they'll read one of my poems and have a little revelation. And that's a good thing."

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