Thursday, August 18, 2011

Selling Poetry at the Beach

Jeffery Martin at Venice Beach
On my run down to Venice Beach yesterday (we flew home last night, so no beach run today), I ran across poet Jeffery Martin peddling poetry among the Venice Beach kitsch.  It was one of those classic cartoon moments as I slowly jogged by and then my head swiveled back as the words "poetry sold here" finally registered in my consciousness.  I circled back for a long chat with Jeffrey.

He had a list of awards he'd won so for the blog I looked up the first one, but I couldn't find anything on the New Jersey Beach Book Festival (well, I did find it on Jeffery's website) which got me to thinking, hey, Steve, where's your crap detector?  Maybe this is like the Alaska International Film Awards - but they at least have a website.  But he was there on the London Book Festival (2008 Honorable Mention Poetry) website and the New York Book Festival (2008 Honorable Mention Poetry) and the San Francisco Book Festival 2011 (Honorable Mention Poetry AND Children's Lit).  Relief.  I couldn't have been fooled that badly.  His awards are real. 

Another page on his website listed it as just the Beach Book Festival and that one found him (2008 Winner Poetry.  It's all one url, so go to past festivals - 2008)

He also writes children's books - as the San Francisco award suggests.  The inspiration for that is his other job - working with autistic children in the LA School District.  The funding was cut, he said, for the summer program this year, which freed him to spend his summer at Venice Beach selling some books and much more important, he said, meeting interesting people from all over the world.

I didn't buy anything because I don't usually have money with me when I'm running.  So I asked if he had a poem on racism.  (Does that make me a racist because I assumed a black poet would write about racism?  In this case, we had talked a little about the topic already.)  He had to think before asking if Epithets, from Weapons of Choice, would fit. 

As I read it more carefully, I'm thinking this probably isn't about racism as much as greed and capitalism gone bad.

Final note: My style is generally to be understated and to hope that the reader catches the irony or outrage under my matter of fact statements. But here I hope nobody missed the point that California's unwillingness to deal with the 30 year bleeding caused by Prop. 13, means that this year, among other things, LA's autistic kids and their parents, are on their own this summer.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Steve,

    I had to respond to this very interesting blog concerning vanity plates. Being an owner of a motorcycle with a "vanity plate" I had to reassess my reason behind making this license plate so personal. Was it truly a case of being vain and wanting the driving community to know that I was a poet and to beware or was it just another example of how artists tend to work outside the normal realm of things? I would love to say that I am sure of the ulterior motives, but quite frankly I have no idea what brought about the decision. I know riding a big, blue motorcycle draws enough attention by itself, yet having a personalized plate seems to make it more mine. I guess having the state of California acknowledge my ownership wasn't enough, I had to put my fingerprints on it. So I guess in the end it really does have the trappings of a vanity plea, but I swear to the heavens it snuck in there without my permission.

    In all humbleness,

    Jeffery Martin


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