First Annual Jasmines & Poetry Festival
by Brian Dunlap
On Friday April 16th, Jessica M. Wilson and the L.A. Poet Society debuted the Jasmines & Poetry Festival, livestreamed and socially distanced, to coincide with National Poetry Month.
Wilson kicked things off with a tribute to the late great poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, lost last year at 101. His press, City Lights, and the bookstore of the same name, is where the West Coast Beats first coalesced. Memories of Ferlinghetti were shared by the poets SA Griffin and Antonieta Villamil: Villamil remembering how welcoming and warm he was at readings, positioning poets as important voices of the people. Griffin recalling Ferlinghetti. A fitting tribute put together by a self-proclaimed heir to the Beats herself, Jessica Wilson.
The first annual festival, as Wilson said, was a celebration honoring fertility through the natural and our creativity. The power poems create and the connection that power provides us. It is one of a continuation of new projects and events Jessica M. Wilson has conceived of during the pandemic for the Los Angeles Poet Society, such as Los Angeles Poet Society Press and their literary journal Acid Verse.
Founded more than a decade ago by Jessica M. Wilson, Los Angeles Poet Society has aimed to bring the L.Á. Poetry community together through reading and open mics and projects highlighting its talented poets. And on this Friday, the Jasmines & Poetry Festival highlighted two local Poet Laureates, Lynne Thompson, the new Poet Laureate of Los Ángeles; and Pomona Poet Laureate Judah1. They were joined by Gerda Govine Ituarte, founder of Pasadena Rose Poets, and former Poet Laureate of Altadena, Teresa Mei Chuc, among others.
After the Beat Poetry Workshop run by former Executive Director of Beyond Baroque Richard Modiano, the poetry reading brought everyone together to sit in the shared space of grief and trauma—to not be alone, as poetry does—that’s regripped the country over the last few weeks; the ongoing killings of unarmed and innocent people of color.
The festival wasn’t entirely heavy, as when Alexis Rhone Fancher shared her erotic poetry that she’s known for. When the Jasmines & Poetry Festival ended at 11pm, I realized I’d seen Zoom list at one point 99+ attendees. And I know many more tuned in via Facebook Live. The first annual festival, livestreamed, was a success.
About Brian Dunlap:
Brian Dunlap is an Angeleño author who explores Los Angeles in all his writings (fiction, nonfiction, poetry). He is in love with the vibrant Los Angeles literary scene. He received my MFA in Creative Writing from Fresno State and is the author of the chapbook "Concrete Paradise"--14 poems exploring the intersection of race and place in Los Ángeles--from Finishing Line Press. His poem "Those Who Came Before Us" won december magazine's 2018 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. He is the Curator of Los Angeles Literature a blog hosted on wordpress, where this article was first published.