A Place for the Spoken Word
Published: Monday, February 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 15:02
Freedom, relief, anger, love and exclamation are just a few sentiments you can expect to take in at Da Poetry Lounge in Los Angeles. Da Poetry Lounge is a place of expression and art with real people telling their story in the few minutes they are given on stage.
Originally named Dante's Poetry Lounge, it began in 1998 when the original four hosts -- Dante Basco, Shihan, Poetri, and Brutha Gimel -- came together with the goal of dedicating one night to poetry. Basca, actor and poet, used to invite his buddies over to his house every Tuesday for weekly readings. Soon enough, the readings transpired into Hollywood's best-kept secret, Da Poetry Lounge.
In a span of three years, the lounge jumped from venue to venue until finding its current home at the Greenway Court Theatre next to Fairfax High School. Fourteen years later, the dream is still alive on Fairfax Avenue with its new name: Da Poetry Lounge.
DPL showcases some of the most talented poets, including featured performers from HBO's former series, "Def Poetry Jam." Everyone from Dante Basco himself, to New York's Bonafide Rojas and University of Southern California's very own Javon Johnson are just a few of the faces you can spot on stage.
A unique aspect of the lounge is the option to sit on stage for a more engaging time.
Co-host Natalie Patterson describes sitting on stage as a personal and intimate experience between poet and audience. "It's something miraculous and incredible, the energy is bigger than any other bull shit in your life," she said.
Arriving at the theatre, the first thing you notice is the outside stairs and sidewalk wrapped by the long line of people waiting to go inside. You enter the dark theatre to find a small stage with a limited seating area and a lit-up stage. Natalie takes names of those performing while the rest of the crowd sits on the stage cross-legged like excited kindergarteners.
Not only does this place showcase recognized talents, but there are weekly regulars who visit or go onstage simply because they love the atmosphere and the people. Anyone is welcome to sign up at the beginning of a show to participate in three minutes of freedom on stage. If you are a closet poet just waiting to pour your heart out, this is the perfect place for you.
College students, high school students, young parents, and even professors fill the theatre each week. There are some poets who make it out every single week despite economic hardships, and others who are there so often that people already know them by their first name. Even though people who visit the lounge are from all different walks of life, they all come for the love and respect of the spoken word. "Love it or hate it, you have to respect it," said published and renowned poet Bonafide Rojas, who recently recited poems from his book "When the City Sleeps."
A typical night at DPL is split into two parts, both of which have distinct energies. While the first part, hosted by Shihan, houses many curious minds looking to experience poetry for the first time, the second half, hosted by Natalia, is for those who stay for the passion and love of the art. The ultimate goal is all the same: to allow people to tell their story.
Only twice has a flier been distributed to tell of the stunning history the lounge, but the strength of word-of-mouth is clear. DPL's future is in the hands of the people, said Patterson. "It is whatever the people who come make it," she said. "It is about creating inspiration to want to be heard and creating a space to be heard."
As the longest running poetry venue in Los Angeles, not only does this place of spoken word give a home to aspiring poets, but it also offers new ideas and exploration to poetry newcomers.
Where: Greenway Court Theatre
522 N. Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles CA 90036
When: Every Tuesday
How much: $5