Poetry for Southern California
Stacey Mangiaracina Guest Editorial
By Stacey Mangiaracina
When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher gave us a poetry reading assignment. The poem she chose for me was “Upon Julia’s Clothes” by Robert Herrick. I was a nervous wreck trying to remember the words of this poem while I stood in front of the class and recited from memory. I must admit I will always remember that poem and that moment. Most importantly, I will always be thankful to Ms. Gomez for opening up the door to the world of poetry that seemed so far away from the small-town way of life I grew up in.
Today I still live in Slidell, a small suburban city just outside New Orleans. It has grown a lot since I was in school, a sort of booming city since Hurricane Katrina. This area is rich in culture. Music, art, history and of course, the food! I suppose that is why I’m so surprised when I go to the local book store and find only three small shelves of poetry. Even the larger book stores in the next town barely donate a full wall of shelves to such an important part of literature. One can’t help but wonder, is poetry really so intimidating that people shy away from it? Perhaps people aren’t offered the opportunity to get acquainted with it; especially if you live in a small town. This needs to change.
In February 2007, I met a poet online from Los Angeles named Rafael F. J. Alvarado. At the time I was volunteering my spare time to a MySpace poet community as the public relations representative. Basically I posted a poet of the day blog and helped promote a weekly Internet-based radio show. Rafael began introducing me to poets that I would never have read had it not been for him. I felt so embarrassed and somewhat parochial to tell him I had never heard of Pablo Neruda or Amiri Baraka. My small town seems more like a prison now that I’ve discovered there’s a whole world of poets I never knew existed but should have.
Rafael soon introduced to me to his friend and fellow poet, S.A. Griffin. They both took me under their wings and showed me what I had been missing for so long. One day I happened to mention that I was a bit unhappy with the work I was doing for the man running the poetry community. I was beginning to notice that he was censoring a few of the poets that were sending submissions and I called him out on it. The profile page had a huge sign on it that stated “Censorship is Suicide” and the mission stated there will be no censoring. To test his statement, Rafael and S.A. asked me to post a poem called “You Fucking Cunt” by Eric Brown on the poet-of-the-day blog.
The poem went up on Good Friday and within the hour it was taken down and I was told my services were no longer needed. I argued that he was censoring and he didn’t bother looking past the “dirty words” long enough to read the piece. Of course he didn’t want to hear it. Before signing out of the MySpace account, I posted a bulletin to all members of the community to say good-bye and explained why. The response was incredible! There were so many messages and comments in support of me and bashing his bad decision that he decided to step down and offered me the site and the radio show. I was shocked and elated all at once! Finally I have a way to share poetry with the world!
In the next few days Rafael, S.A. and I began planning what to do with this new venture. We decided to continue with the radio show, and thus S.A. dubbed us The World Wide Word Radio Network. (WWWRN) Our first radio show, Onword, hosted by S.A. Griffin and featuring an interview with guest poet Ellyn Maybe, aired in May 2007. After about 15 minutes of technical difficulties we finally had the show going and S.A. decided to keep me as his co-host. Since then we’ve added a few more shows such as The Moe Green Poetry Hour with host Rafael Alvarado and co-hosted by me, Unobstructed hosted by Alaina R. Alexander, The Eclectic Word hosted by Victor Infante, Cerebral Meditations hosted by Roy Johnston with co-host Armine Iknadossian, For the Love of Poetry hosted by Cassandra Love and soon to come is Talking the Line hosted by a guest poet who will be interviewing one of their favorite poets. Our list of poets who have been interviewed or had a live reading is incredible. Poets such as Bob Holman, Hettie Jones, Martin Espada, Al Young and Sonia Sanchez just to name a few. All of our shows are archived and available for download at www.blogtalkradio.com/onword if you miss hearing it live.
When people ask how much money we make doing this it surprises them to hear it’s done only for the love of poetry. I believe the contribution we’re making is enough reward in itself. Poetry should be celebrated and we’re here to help spread the word worldwide!
CEO World Wide Word Radio Network