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The language of the soul 

Poets coalesce at SLO's annual festival dedicated to everything poetic

Poets are an interesting bunch, a resourceful and rare breed of artist not typically motivated by money or fame. These lyricists seem mostly content (or malcontent) with possessing just enough ink and paper to get thoughts and images out of their minds and into the world, where the work is meant to be read. Aloud.

click to enlarge DAME LAUREATE :  Dian Sousa, pictured here as part of "Poets Laureate in California, a Photographic Exhibit," has two published book of poems: Sunday Blood and Jamaica Rum: Poems of Spiritual Schizophrenia and Lullabies for the Spooked and Cool. - IMAGE BY RONNA LEON
  • IMAGE BY RONNA LEON
  • DAME LAUREATE : Dian Sousa, pictured here as part of "Poets Laureate in California, a Photographic Exhibit," has two published book of poems: Sunday Blood and Jamaica Rum: Poems of Spiritual Schizophrenia and Lullabies for the Spooked and Cool.

# Enter the San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival, now in its 24th year. Poets from all over the United States gather on the Central Coast, at various locations (see a complete listing of readings and events below) starting Nov. 9 and culminating on Nov. 18. Co-founded by local poet Kevin Patrick Sullivan, who will be reading during the festival, the SLO Poetry Festival is chock full of--what else?--poetry, and the poets who spent countless hours toiling and scribbling, all for the sake of potentially moving just one soul.

Now more than ever, poetry is becoming mainstream--while maintaining its ethereal sovereignty. There are poetry slams all over the world, young literary hipsters filling indie zines and independently published books of anti-prose, and, of course, localized readings in every cafe and on tiny stages in every town. The Central Coast wouldn't be the Central Coast if it didn't somehow participate in this beatnik phenomenon.

 

Participating poet

Dian Sousa--community activist, organizer, and, of course, poet--is San Luis Obispo's poet laureate for 2008 and spoke with New

click to enlarge HEROES :  Previous SLO poet laureate Ray Clark Dickson is pictured here as part of "Poets Laureate in California, a Photographic Exhibit." - IMAGE BY RONNA LEON
  • IMAGE BY RONNA LEON
  • HEROES : Previous SLO poet laureate Ray Clark Dickson is pictured here as part of "Poets Laureate in California, a Photographic Exhibit."
# Times about her recent honor.

After rejecting the title several times, Sousa decided to accept it because, she said, she thought she could do some good and raise money for the Poetry Festival.

In her more than 25 years of living on the Central Coast, she has taught surfing and co-founded the peace- and change-seeking organization SLO Code Pink.

But her forays into politics aren't all about politics: "To me, politics means compromise, and that is not what I am involved in. I want us all to remember for our own good and for the survival of our planet, that the bottom line of our humanity is not power and profit, but compassion, true community, imagination, and joy."

It isn't difficult to imagine a poet behind that statement. Sousa was taught early on from her well-read mother, she said, to honor and develop her individuality, creativity, and spiritual freedom, tempered with compassion and responsibility to community, which she considers to be the root of her poetry and activism. Throughout all of her activities, she's written about "the amazement and the miracle of the everyday."

Sousa writes when the mood strikes her, or when she's on what she calls a "plateau of intake," when things come to her. She also pens commentaries and essays and always has some part of a poem to work on.

click to enlarge POETRY ON THE WALL :  State Poet Laureate Al Young (pictured) is part of "Poets Laureate in California, a Photographic Exhibit" on display at the San Luis Obispo Art Center, located at 1010 Broad St. through Nov. 18. The series of photos features all 10 of San Luis Obispo's past and current laureates, from Ray Clark Dickson to newly appointed Dian Sousa. Info: sloartcenter.org or 543-8562. - IMAGE BY RONNA LEON
  • IMAGE BY RONNA LEON
  • POETRY ON THE WALL : State Poet Laureate Al Young (pictured) is part of "Poets Laureate in California, a Photographic Exhibit" on display at the San Luis Obispo Art Center, located at 1010 Broad St. through Nov. 18. The series of photos features all 10 of San Luis Obispo's past and current laureates, from Ray Clark Dickson to newly appointed Dian Sousa. Info: sloartcenter.org or 543-8562.

# She counts folk artists, Anne Sexton, Johnny Cash, and T.S. Eliot as influences. She describes her own work as "not quite cowboy poetry, but magical realism. It's rooted in the everyday."

In her writing, Sousa rails against what she calls "the absurdity of fear."

"I use a lot of natural imagery, but also I use pop culture references," she said. "It's an accessible barometer of who we are as a society at any given time, or at least who we are pretending to be. I use it in my poems to either point out the absurdity of how we live and to illustrate that our everyday life, despite the constant barrage from Coca-Cola, and SpongeBob (whom I love), is always rooted in the miracle and beauty, which will amaze us and remind us of who we really are if we just wake up long enough to see it."

Sousa will be reading on Nov. 9 at SLO Art Center at 7 p.m.

 

 

Poetry happenings

The Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival/Corners of the Mouth event takes place Nov. 9 to 18 in conjunction with Cal Poly University WriterSpeak. All events start at 7 p.m., and the cost is $2 to $3 for each one.

On Nov. 9, at the San Luis Obispo Art Center, 1010 Broad St., hear featured readers, including past poet laureate Rosemary Wilvert, who discovered her own writing when she turned 50, and now explores her love of nature through poetry. Poet Laureate Dian Sousa will also read.

On Nov. 10, at the San Luis Obispo Art Center, hear featured reader Kevin Clark, a Cal Poly teacher whose award-winning poetry has appeared in many publications. Hernan Castellano-Giron will also read.

On Nov. 11, also at the San Luis Obispo Art Center, hear Phoebe MacAdams, a founding member of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival and Michael Hannon, who's been a poet for almost 50 years.

On Nov. 16, in the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center's Phillips Recital Hall, hear David St. John, winner of the Prix de Rome fellowship in literature. He teaches at USC.

On Nov. 17, at the Steynberg Gallery, 1531 Monterey St. in SLO, hear featured readers, including Andrea Selch, Jackson Wheeler, and Nixson Borah, an Atascadero poet and well-known figure in the SLO County arts community.

On Nov. 18, at Linnaea's Cafe, 1110 Garden St., hear Leo Victor Briones, Dan Gerber, and Indigo Moor. There will also be an open reading and a closing party to celebrate the event.

For more information about any of the events or poets listed, visit languageofthesoul.org, call 547-1318, or e-mail kpsslopoet@charter.net.

INFOBOX: Wording it just right

The Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival/Corners of the Mouth event takes place Nov. 9 through 18 in conjunction with Cal Poly University WriterSpeak. All events start at 7 p.m. and the cost is $2 to $3 for each reading. Info: languageofthesoul.org.

Christy Heron thinks you're her favorite mistake. Teach her a poetic lesson at cheron@newtimesslo.com.

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