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Arts Alive Blog


Arts Alive Poetry Contest Entries: Here, There & Everywhere

Posted By: Kelsey McConnell · 5/1/2013 1:00:00 PM

Earlier this month, Arts Alive announced its first ever Poetry Contest. We asked you to help us celebrate National Poetry Month by sending us poems about music and Southern California. We'll be posting entries here on the Arts Alive blog all week and Brian Lauritzen will pick one to read this Saturday on Arts Alive.

So far we've posted poems that capture the experience of listening to Los Angeles and going to the Hollywood Bowl. Today, we're posting poems that travel the Southland.


Beethoven at Sunset
by Jaime K. Hudson

The Night Shift has ended:
I started the morning here,
In my Anaheim apartment,
Trying to get more than an hour's worth
Of un-interrupted, un-corrupted sleep...
Before my neighbor started on his daily
Round of expletives, aimed at his wife and kids

Some people watch soap operas:
Why they do, when Life is already
A daily melodrama - is beyond me...

Listening to Beethoven's 5th at sunset,
With the headphones on,
All I know is the painted sky:
Her colors and charms like some
Perfumed Odalisque of ancient days,
Drawing me on toward an evening's repose...

And - soon enough - the Stars shall beckon!

Hills of Encino
by Victoria Branch

I made my home in the hills of Encino.
It’s there I thought I would always stay.
Now, though I’ve left, my sweet hills of Encino
Will call my heart till my dying day.

There is a lake in the hills of Encino,
So deep and wide it contains the sky.
It holds my love for the hills of Encino
And soothes my soul like a lullaby.

I had good friends in the hills of Encino.
Most had four legs, but a few had two.
Some fly above my sweet hills of Encino,
And one had eyes of the palest blue.

I painted views of the hills of Encino.
I took my songs from the morning breeze.
It was an artist’s life in the hills of Encino --
A place named for its great oak trees.

So, look for me in the hills of Encino
Where I walked alone at the break of day
Or at its close through the hills of Encino,
Just when the light fell a certain way.

Oh, let me lie in the hills of Encino,
For it’s by that lake that I belong --
So deep within my sweet hills of Encino
That the roots and seeds will know my song.

The Red Geranium
by Edward J. Sotello, Sr.

There's so much to love:
      morning coffee,
      a red geranium that grows
          in a clay pot,
     my wife's kiss,
the blue jay that scolds our cat,
     listening to the Grande Canyon Suite.

All these things I love and more,
     I watch the sunrise
cast morning shadows across
    the San Bernardino Valley floor
         and sip from my full cup of coffee.


by Gail Jensen Sanford

Driving in fog late at night
in the San Joaquin Valley,
as cold moist air tries to condense
my car into cloud.
Halfway home, a north-bound train
lights a slice of mist
as it passes, and the full moon
appears, almost clear, overhead.
I slide back the cover of my moonroof,
remembering driving fast on winter nights
in L.A., the tinted glass window open,
Don Henley singing,
the excitement of sirens,
warm Santa Ana winds tearing
from the bottom thousand feet
of the atmosphere
all the particles
of smoke and moisture
that come between our lives and our view of the sky.


Long Beach, CA
by Daniel Rodriguez

The drone of city traffic
like cymbal riding the beats of urban songs
rises from the streets and pervades life's passages
(that are also measured by the clock clicking at my bedside):

love affairs, work, the teaching of our children, death,
these are themes improvised.


Instant Spring, Santa Barbara, California
by Jacqueline Lunianski

I feel the drear of April fog
my spirits match the gray
when suddenly an amber breeze
flits through the sodden day.

Among the mauve and lilac spikes
of flowering Ischium
a tiny Rufous Hummingbird
no bigger than my thumb.

With rare finesse he hovers o'er
sweet dripping purple blooms
oblivious to nature's weep
an aura in the gloom.

He samples each in three-four time
a waltz that's swift and light
his orchestra the thrum of wing
that guides him in his flight. 


Igor in Venice     
by John Stodder

The endless baptism that is
Southern California in its
Genius for moving water, using water
Guiding our immersions, meditations
Could not have escaped Igor Stravinsky, his
Enormous ears and bulging eyes would
Sense the flow beneath his feet as he
Pondered the aftermath of revolutions and
Shared birthday cake with
A Hollywood producer, likely fresh from
A poolside assignation, or a
Peaceful round of golf, irrigated by
Desert aquifers pumped, the product
Conducted across blazing acres, the
Rates of evaporation as
Carefully calculated as a tone-row by
Engineers of chance.
As riotous an imposition of creative will
As one might find in a Paris theater in 1913.

On a misty evening, during a monstrous decade
Of terrible plans, near where the wasted water
Flows out to the sea, Igor might be spotted
On the Venice boardwalk, braving
The roughnecks who loiter on the pier amid
A sleeping circus against the surge. He listens
To the Pacific’s waves blasting the air, the
World’s tuning fork, struck by nothing
In the center of nowhere.  Igor, out
For a stroll after a late jazz set, the
City so spread out; it could make an old Russian’s
Eyes sting. His hand reaches for a hidden flask.
Everyone and their axe, everyone alone:
Warren Zevon calling trumps in San Pedro
Gerald Wilson, bands lost and found on Central
Schoenberg’s Westwood sand castles
Frank Zappa and Ray Collins and their
Memories of El Monte, inflicting
Musique concrete on romancing
Spaniards.  In this city of
Ten thousand underground waterways
How could you know
When you had found the Left Bank?

Wet sand stuck to Igor’s shoe,
As night turns to morning,
Darkness to diffused fog.
He sips his Scotch and
Spots a wooden surfboard,
A streamlined monolith belted to
The roof of a station wagon, borne to
A new day’s circular journeys
Along the edge of a resonant void.

by Lindsey R. Nelson

Gazzarri’s, the Whiskey,
And Hong Kong Café
Schindler House, Donte’s,the Manne Hole,
The Bing
Disney, Zipper, Royce,
And the Bowl
Macarthur Park, ParisianRoom.
Betty Freeman’s Salons
Ash Grove, Troubadour,
El Monte Legion Stadium
A-Frame, Bakery,
First Pres. Church
Simonson’s, Pilgrimage
(Now called The Ford)
Echoes and memories
Each has their own


by Brynn Holland

It wasn’t the best.
Or the worst.
Or really anything to write about.
It just was what it was.
The obis.  The parking lots. The concrete.
This distant reality of unknown coming to fruition at no particular time with no author or farmer to harvest it or call it its own.
We grew up here.
Friday nights at Jerry’s Deli and the attached bowling alley.
Dates at Universal City Walk.
Hollywood Bowl field trips and concerts.
Fireworks lighting up the sky.
The prize of being in the Carpenter Ave School District.
Learning to play instruments.
Traveling with Walter Reed’s well known music program.
Developing a taste for jazz at a young age, because our schools were good, our education varied,
And free concerts were abundant.
Knowing many of us would continue on to study music, and some would do it professionally.
We didn’t have cell phones.
Pagers were for doctors and other important working professionals.
The minivan was all the rage.
Valley girls and skaters weren’t a thing, they just were.
Part of the fabric of life, “like” took its place in every sentence.
You liked KIIS FM or KROCK.
Defined by the 101,
Our families grew up in the quaint, cottage house neighborhoods off Ventura Blvd.
We were the kids of parents who were able to afford their houses on middle class incomes.
We fought to keep Studio City Golf and Tennis Club.
We knew our neighbors, had block parties, water fights, pool parties, and jam sessions.
We biked down Ventura Blvd without fear of road rage run vehicles pelting down Laurel Canyon.
Our parents could walk into the local banks and everyone knew their name.
We hiked Fryman canyon without paying to use the lot.
The library wasn’t concerned with outside beauty and it condemned noise.
We had many 4th of July parades,
And everyone knew the house that gave out King sized candy bars.
We saw Laurel Canyon grow from an unpopulated trip to the other side of the hill, to a congested traffic jam reminiscent of the 405.
We knew it before its popularity and wealth.
Before it was voted hippest neighborhood, home of sushi row, or most likely to succeed.
In many ways it’s the same.
Just more inhabited.
Bursting open with people, traffic, music, and culture.
Here sits Studio City.


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