Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Around Town: Keeping poetry alive locally

Around Town: Keeping poetry alive locally

The funny thing about poetry is this: It is easier to get paid for a screenplay than for a poem.

It is also easier to collect on a debt than to get paid for a poem.

In 1994, the magic happened: Alan Fox, a successful businessman and Realtor, started a poetry journal. His journal, Rattle, has the following mission: “We love poetry and feel that it's something everyone can enjoy.” Since 1994, Rattle has published world-class poets such as Philip Levine, Jane Hirshfield and Sharon Olds.

Until recently, Rattle was based in the Westside. The readings were in Santa Monica. Imagine the traffic! La Cañadans with an interest in poetry drove for hours to attend book events and workshops. That's all about to change. This month, the Rattle Reading Series launched at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse. Every first Sunday of the month, at 5 p.m., starting on Aug. 5, Rattle will present poets from the current issue. Some of the poets are L.A.-based. Others come from far-off places like Texas, Nebraska and Sweden.

Timothy Green is the new editor of Rattle. After relocating from New York, Green eventually settled in Wrightwood, where he is hard at work on his second book and his editorial duties. Green reviews the thousands of submissions, coordinates readings and sends out the rejection letters. Thanks to the brilliance of Alan Fox, Rattle is self-sufficient. There is no charge for submissions, but the entrance fee for the annual Rattle prize helps sustain the journal.

Still adjusting to its new location, Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse is trying to reinvent itself as a leading Southern California independent bookstore and major venue for readings.

 In addition to the Rattle readings, the store now hosts the Moonday East readings, held every third Sunday at 2 p.m. There are invited poets and open mic readings. The bookstore has invited Alan Fox and Timothy Green to read as featured Moonday East poets this Sunday, July 15, at 2 p.m. It has been a long road back for Flintridge Books since the big-rig crash of 2009.

The new venue is bigger, with a slightly less welcoming ambience than the old store, but the coffee bar, book events and Espresso Book Machine are factors in mitigation.

Tim Green waxed eloquent about the Espresso Book Machine, which forced me to call Gail Mishkin at Flintridge Bookstore. Mishkin explained that the “EBM” does not produce coffee. It produces books. For a $100 base setup fee to upload the product, authors can produce bound paperback books at a minimal cost (approximately $6.95 for 200 pages) in less than 15 minutes.

 Flintridge Bookstore has the only EBM in Southern California. Family genealogists might use it to upload the family history. Other family members can print bound copies as needed. A self-published poet or writer can do the same. These events mark a renaissance for the literary arts in the foothills.

Last year, Red Hen Press relocated to Pasadena. Some of its authors have scheduled book events at Flintridge Bookstore.

Gail Mishkin has recruited and booked the Rattle, Red Hen Press and Moonday West readings at Flintridge Bookstore. Mishkin is not a poet. Her background is in art history and the visual arts, but she says that “there is lots of enthusiasm in the poetry world,” and the readings “open up a whole new world for me.”

That's what poets do. They write poems. They open up new worlds. Right here in La Cañada Flintridge.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at anitasusan.brenner@yahoo.com and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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