By Bliss Bowen
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer
Since its founding in 2008, the Lummis Days festival (lummisday.org) in Northeast LA has heralded summer’s arrival in early June with a weekend celebration of community and the arts.
The pandemic scotched that tradition last year, of course, and this year organizers have reconceived at least part of the festival in virtual form.
After launching two weekends ago, the Lummis Day Viva Poetry! Library Series continues with part two Saturday, June 5. Co-hosted by Eagle Rock Branch Library and moderated by Southland literary doyenne Suzanne Lummis, the online event will feature readings and conversation with poets Ron Koertge, Jeremy Ra and Conney Williams, plus guest readings by poets from Eagle Rock Branch Library’s Western Edge Writers.
South Pasadena’s poet laureate, Koertge is a prolific, Pushcart Prize-winning writer who has published at least 20 collections of poetry. Two of his pieces can be found in the 1999 and 2005 “Best American Poetry” anthologies.
Fascinated by Hollywood, myth and cultural Americana, he has an imaginative knack for locating wonder and weirdness in the ordinary. Humor courses through his 2018 book “Yellow Moving Van,” whether he’s envisioning Orpheus and his lyre in a busy Chinese restaurant as starstruck girls “text frantically” or offering “A True Account of Talking to the Breeze in South Pasadena.” “Snowman” widens his arms in “constant welcome” to a lover whose commanding whispers “make him melt:” “That’s the problem with love like hers/ How to tell him without killing him.”
Born in Hawaii and raised in South Korea, Ra delves into family history in his poetry and observes how bonds are established through ritual. In his amusing poem “Expired LA Times Subscription,” the longtime LA resident compares death to a “sassy girl friend who barges in one night/uninvited” before poignantly blaming the LA Times for his relationship’s demise.
“You would still be at your home/ because you couldn’t get over your curiosity/ of what fresh hell the paper will deliver to your door,” he tells a sales rep, before realizing, “I’ve been talking to a disconnected phone / asking the void to answer back.”
Blues provided vivid settings and metaphors for Williams’ 2012 collection “Blues Red Soul Falsetto: New Poems.” But the performance artist and community activist’s work mines deeper inspiration from the conflicted ways people interact — whether as relatives, lovers or groups of people set up for a fall by society.
A third Viva Poetry! installment is scheduled for Saturday, June 19, “The Lit Fantastic” podcast host Neil Aitken, KPFK’s “Poets Café” host Lois P. Jones, Moon Tide Press publisher and Arcadia native Eric Moragov and Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Lynne Thompson.