Not Averse to Critics

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, here’s a suggestion: Read your own verse at a poetry slam.

It’s a performance poetry contest with an edge, and it’s happening at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Book Mall in downtown Ventura. Sponsored by all three chapters of SPAWN–Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network–the onetime event will be hosted by KCLU radio contributor Roni.

So who are these brave souls willing to engage in a verbal contest judged by randomly chosen audience members?

At the last slam Roni hosted in Thousand Oaks, people lined up 30 minutes early to sign up. The first 12 make the cut and have a maximum of three minutes on stage.

Cash prizes of $50, $25 and $10 add an incentive.

Judges score 50% on the performance and 50% on the content. The score is announced right after each performance and the atmosphere can get tense.

The more dramatic the presentation, the better.

The winner was wonderfully dramatic and also funny,” Roni said of the Thousand Oaks poetry slam. “There was poignancy as well.”

The first reader was an 80-year-old woman who wrote about her first love, she said, followed by a teenager on the same topic. “The juxtaposition of the oldest and the youngest talking about their first loves was just beautiful–a happy happenstance,” Roni said.

In Thousand Oaks, contestants were asked to avoid unnecessary profanity. That’s not so in Laguna Beach, though, where Roni often attends slams. There, it’s no holds barred.

You have no idea who is going to show and it’s scary,” she said.

Some in the poetry community consider slams more show biz than literature. People need to be able to read and mull over a poem, they contend. But Roni argues that the object of slam is to let the general public know that poetry can be entertaining as well as deep.

When people discover poetry can be interesting, they’ll read it,” she said. About her own book of poetry, “Sensuous Cinemas of My Mind,” she tells audiences not to worry–it’s her mind, not theirs.

If you feel brave enough to bare your own thoughts, sign up for the poetry slam. Rules are available at or by calling Laughing Buddha Press at 386-3061.


* Today: 1 p.m. Carol Givner, president of Gold Coast Fiction Writers and editor of “Wordsmith,” will discuss and sign her novel, “Bing, Bang, Boom” at the monthly meeting of the Gold Coast Fiction Writers. In addition, Bonnie Mauck will launch Amore Magazine, dedicated to the romantic short story. Nona’s Courtyard Cafe, 67 S. California St., Ventura. Free to members and first-time guests. Brunch is at your own expense. Contact Carol Givner at (310) 454-6264 or e-mail

* Tuesday: 7 p.m. The Partners in Crime mystery group welcomes author Michael Connelly for a discussion and signing of his works, including Angel’s Flight.” Borders Books and Music, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Tuesday: 7 p.m. The Friends of Dorothy Reading Group will discuss Life Outside” by Michelangelo Signorile. Barnes & Noble, 4360 E. Main St., Ventura, 339-9170.

* Wednesday: noon. Terence Faherty will discuss and sign his book, Orion Rising.” Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.

* Wednesday: 4 p.m. Enjoy stories and meet guests from the Moorpark Zoo. Borders Books and Music in Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Wednesday: 6-8:30 p.m. Kristine O’Connell George, author of “Great Frog Race,” “Old Elm Speaks” and “Little Dog” will speak at a teachers open house. Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura, 650-9688.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. Poetry slam, with first 12 poets eligible to perform. Free admission and cash prizes. The Book Mall, 105 S. Oak St., Ventura, or 646-3045.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. Anitra Sheen will discuss and sign her debut novel, “Things Unspoken.” Borders Books and Music in Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. The Writing Group will meet to read and discuss poetry, short stories, novels and other works in progress. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170.

* Wednesday: 7:30 p.m. Book and Song Reading Group will read “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” by Edgar Allen Poe and hear “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” by the Alan Parsons Project. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 446-2820.

* Friday: 7 p.m. Storytime features “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. Photo opportunity for children to meet the Wild Things. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170.

* Friday: 7:30 p.m. Cal Lutheran University authors will be featured. Beverly Kelley will discuss “Reelpolitik,” J.T. Ledbetter will discuss Mark Van Doren,” and Robert Meadows will discuss “Understanding Violence and Victimization.” Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

* Saturday: 10 a.m. Robert S. Levinson will discuss and sign “The Elvis and Marilyn Affair” at a breakfast signing. Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.


Information about book signings, writers groups or publishing events can be e-mailed to or faxed to 647-5649.

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