A Potpourri of Poetry
June 14, 2018
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Let me share my day of poetry
With you . . .
September 20, 2017 marked 100 years from the day the Culver City city charter was issued. Several special community events occurred during our Centennial year, including poetry readings that culminated in a book launch and reading at the Culver City Senior Center on Saturday, June 9th at 10 a.m., celebrating the publication of "Culver City's Centennial Poetry Collection," a labor of love that was initiated and edited by Dr. Janet Cameron Hoult. Sale proceeds go to the Culver City Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located in the Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Ave., and the book will be sold in its bookstore. For further information, please call (310) 253-6941.
"When I was appointed Culver City's Honorary Artist Laureate for Poetry," Janet told me, "I decided that my duties and responsibilities included increasing awareness of poetry in our lives, so I began teaching a poetry class at the senior center in 2015. As a member of the Centennial Celebration Marketing Committee, having a poetry contest to celebrate Culver City seemed like a good way to expand poetry to the entire community and read about the pride, love and admiration we have for our town." Poetry contest winners were Helen Seid (1st), Ann Garrett (2nd), Miriam Schnepp (3rd), and Audrey Hess (4th).
Debbie Cahill, the center's Senior Program Specialist, was of inestimable help with arrangements and set up. Refreshments were generously provided by California Pizza Kitchen, Sorrento Italian Market, and Ralphs. The room was packed and the program commenced with Janet's introductory remarks. During the course of the morning we also heard from Paul Jacobs, former mayor of Culver City and president of the Centennial Celebration Committee.
The opening poem was "My Centennial Summer," by Steven Gelb.
A sample of the book's poetry followed, with the reading divided into eight groups: Culver City History, Culver City Organizations/Institutions/Services, Culver City Senior Center, The Heart of Screenland, Around Culver City, Culver City Parks/Nature, Culver City Activities, and Culver City Thoughts. The program closed with Janet's poem, "The End of Our Centennial Year," and a raffle.
In addition to Steven, the poets represented in the reading were Ron Cohen, Helen Seid, Angie Waller, Lauren Seberos, Ruth Berman, Leslie L. Lenell, Marsha Wilde, David Katz, Pat Harmon, Lyra Small, Terry Dicks, Joanne Wolf, Miriam Schnepp (deceased), Mo de Koff, Sheila Steckler, Ed Rosenthal, Ralph Thurston Seaton, Edith Goodman, Ann Garrett, Audrey Hess, Alice Gardello, Norma Glickman, Michael Poizner, Linda Childs, Jessica Burnett, B. T. Khanh, Elizabeth Harris, Teresa Raschilla, Chris Kay Northrup, Rosalie Kirsch, Brad Silverman, and myself. Readings were either by the poets or by others on their behalf.
I was elated to be in the book along with Brad, who is a member of L.A. GOAL, which serves adults with developmental disabilities. He attends the class I conduct there as a volunteer poetry teacher. After he read his insightful poem, it was gratifying and validating for us both to see how warmly received it was, since he was also representing his poetry classmates and that excellent, caring facility.
The Berman/Rutenberg families, sponsors of the book, were present and actively involved, with Ruth Berman's poems being read by her son, Andrew Berman, and daughter, Sara Berman Rutenberg. Additionally, Nikki Tilmouth read a moving tribute to the late Miriam Schnepp, who was fondly known as poet in residence at the center.
In attendance and acknowledged were poetry contest judge and author Lynne Bronstein, former mayor Jim Clarke, Culver City Historical Society president Hope Parrish, and director Lloyd Clayton of the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum. Janet also recognized the Culver City Julian Dixon Library, where one of the early readings was held.
As Paul Jacobs said in his forward to the book, it "evoked, as simple words could not, the emotional response that we felt, but had difficulty articulating."
It was a day of contrasts as the afternoon found Janet and me traveling from the senior center to a youth event at the LA Galaxy Soccer Center in Torrance. We'd been invited by Geoff Wilson, Executive Director of America SCORES LA, to serve as two of the three judges at the LA SCORES Poetry SLAM and America SCORES West Coast Poetry SLAM, the third judge being described by Geoff as "one of our Development Board co-chairs, Steve Miller, a wonderful guy and a great volunteer for LA SCORES." Having volunteered for several years in workshops that stimulate youngsters to develop their writing abilities, I was delighted to participate.
The poetry slam was part of a larger fundraising event, the inaugural LA SCORES Alumni & Friends Futsal SLAM. The top fundraising team turned out to be J. P. Morgan Men's Team, and the top individual fundraiser was Sean Dundon. The poetry slam was held during the tournament break.
I learned that LA SCORES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that uses soccer, creative writing, and service learning to inspire underserved students ages 6 to 18 attending four different Title 1 public schools in the Palms community to develop self- confidence, leadership and teamwork skills while improving literacy and promoting a healthy, active lifestyle. Through service learning, teams use their writing skills to spearhead projects illustrating the ability of kids to become agents of change in their communities. Go to lascores.org and be sure to click on Photo Albums.
The poetry slam was emceed by Treniece Mone and Ben Spears, two juniors and skilled poets from Hamilton high school (my alma mater, Kanoan, S'55), and included the following capable competitors: Paola Mendola, Braddock Elementary, LA SCORES; Jesus Castro-Gomez and Jaiden Ramirez (presenting together), Palms Elementary, LA SCORES; Mia Abraham and Xiomara Trejo, Venetia Valley Elementary, Bay Area SCORES; Soliyana Tadesse, Bailey Gazert Elementary School, Seattle SCORES; and Arshjyot Dhanda, Kirkbride Elementary,Vancouver SCORES. Amelie Linderman, a student from Charnock Elementary, LA SCORES, also came onstage to sing a song.
And Janet and I even got to present one of our poems during the segment that was open to audience participation! She has a soft spot in her heart for soccer as her late son, whom she referred to in her poem, played the game as a child.
The students were rated on performance as well as poem, and the winner of both the LA SCORES Poetry SLAM and America SCORES West Coast Poetry SLAM was the crowd-pleasing dynamic duo of Jesus and Jaden, who had collaborated in their highly entertaining presentation of "It's Hard Being a Kid."
I daresay many of us have had experiences that have caused us to throw up our hands and exclaim, "There's no rhyme or reason to this!" Saturday was just the opposite, proving the power of poetry to provide a wonderful day of rhyme and the reason for this article.
To summarize, mostly seniors comprised the morning crew
And in the afternoon the kids showed that they, too,
Knew how to turn a phrase or two
So here's my advice to poets of every age:
Flex those creative muscles and find opportunities to engage!