Poetry for Southern California
VCP Directors Guest Editorial
By Valley Contemporary Poets Directors Claudia Handler, Jerry Garcia, Theresa Antonia, Paul Koenig
The VCP Is Back! Greetings from the shiny new directors of the Valley Contemporary Poets. After a brief period, during which we got to our feet, we now find ourselves up and running, bound and determined to resurrect this long established, non-profit organization, dedicated to the idea of bringing damn good poetry to the San Fernando Valley. We are an organization that has been around since its creation in1980 by Nan Hunt. Over the course of these 27 years, we have had a string of dedicated directors, directors who have come, worked hard, and eventually, gone; but the intention of the organization has never been undermined but rather passed, like a flaming baton by the girl at the head of the parade, from one hand to the other.
So here’s what we intend to do. First of all, we will continue our already established reading series at the Cobalt Cafe, in Canoga Park, on the third Tuesday of every month, featuring new and emerging poetic voices. In addition, we will be sponsoring a quarterly reading, which will feature more established poets, in a venue the VCP has not used before. We will also be putting out an annual anthology, chock-full of the work of poets who have read for us during the preceding year.
The venue we have chosen for the quarterly readings is the Tarzana Community & Cultural Center, located in Tarzana, on the corner of Ventura Blvd. and Vanalden. After much exploration and legwork, we have decided to hold our quarterly readings in this lovely and slightly kitschy place, whose spirit smacks of a long-gone and far more innocent era. The Tarzana C&CC features not only an indoor space—which boasts a significant collection of Tarzan paraphernalia—but also a roomy outdoor space, which includes an amusing/wacky little topiary, a goldfish pond, and scads of roses, all under the watchful gaze of some of the Valley’s oldest and wisest trees. In short, we think it’s a good place to hear poetry, and to come away inspired.
Our first quarterly reading will be held there on Sunday, June 10th, at 3:00, and, as a way of tipping our hats to our predecessors, will feature past directors of the VCP. We hope to see you at our readings. And if you do come down—and we know we can’t promise you this—we want you to know that the possibility does, indeed, exist that you will not only be inspired, but also have fun. And we’re not talking about something that reminds you of fun, but the good old-fashioned, burst-your-buttons real thing.
And so, from the four of us, the new directors of the VCP, who stand before you, hearts open, palms up, we simply say: Please check out the offerings of the VCP! And now a few words from us individually.
Claudia Handler: As an ex-New Yorker who lived for a couple of decades in Manhattan and a couple of decades on Long Island, I am familiar with the notion that the suburbs can’t hold a candle to the hipper parts of town. The reputation of the Valley reached me long before I visited it, when I lived in New York City. It was a place that couldn’t compare, that existed in the shadow of a power-burg, where the world was simpler, yes, but the people were simpler, too, and the pickings were far slimmer, especially when it came to the arts. But I landed here and I like it. I like my tiny house and my even tinier guest house, a.k.a. "The Hut." I like watching squirrels run up telephone poles with oranges in their mouths that they swiped from my fruit-littered backyard. And I like being part of an organization that is out to bring something of value and potency to this sweet neck of the woods.
Jerry Garcia: I am honored to be a member of the Valley Contemporary Poets board of directors. This year the VCP will focus on revitalizing its Sunday afternoon reading series with the intention of creating a venue of prominence in Southern California. One of my goals is to provide original branding and promotion that will attract a diverse audience of residents and visitors to hear high-caliber writers in the San Fernando Valley. With the help of my fellow VCP directors, I feel I can contribute to the community by supporting the appreciation of poetry in the Valley, my home for over twenty-two years.
Theresa Antonia: I am so proud and happy to be one of the new VCP directors, along with Jerry, Claudia and Paul, poets whose work I respect and love! As editor for the VCP, my commitment is to select poems from readers who have featured at our series at the Colbalt Cafe, and put out an annual anthology that we are proud to introduce to the Valley.
Paul Koenig: Having a Valley Contemporary Poets seems like it might be such an odd thing. The accidents of history that made neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley younger than those surrounding, with less of the older institutions of art and culture. But these are places with abundances of cars and abundances of roads. With such easy transit, why not simply travel elsewhere to find poetry? Why must there be a Valley Contemporary Poets? Because it’s here. Because it’s in this particular place and within this time. Automobiles and roads make distances merely traversable, not near. There is meaning in being near. The Valley Contemporary Poets works to bring poets of stature onto this particular round inside these bounds of mountains. It works to give extra place for the voices of poets who are of the Valley. It works to bring these things closer to places called home. It brings poetry within the same sights as home, near the weekend grocery, near friends, near family, near the end of each day’s commute. The Valley Contemporary Poets is an assertion that what is held most precious and close, and what is felt most grand and universal, are of the same character, that all that is poetry can be contained in the same cradle of mountains, as home. That is why a Valley Contemporary Poets.