Once upon a noontime dreary, I celebrated Halloween at the Nevermore Free Poetry Festival & Haunted Valley Bus Ride. It was just spooky enough to be adorable. It was a wonderful gathering of a unique community in Los Angeles.* I drifted around listening to poems, eating candy, and adventured on the Haunted Valley Bus Ride. I even took a spin on the weaves! I could feel Edgar Allen Poe’s presence. He was sitting at the top of the federal building, looking down upon us with a glass of whiskey.
The Free Poetry Festival was an eclectic reading of thirty different poets, elegantly hosted by Nicelle Davis. Jerry Garcia was great, Edwin Vasquez made me laugh, Jacqueline Tchakalian was lovely, and Peggy Dobreer was grand. The Lamplight Poets, Cyrus Sepahbodi and David Gale, wore awesome costumes! Laurel Ann Bogen read her Halloween poems. She writes a Halloween poem every year; it’s her favorite holiday because, “On Halloween, you are free to be anything you want. Poetry is like that every day.” (Ah, to be anything you want to be!)
All of the readings were moving. Nicelle Davis welcomed the next hour with a story about Edgar Allen Poe. I did not realize how cool he was. Did you know there is an argument that Poe was an early feminist?
After moving my car to another area of free parking, I embarked on the Haunted Valley Bus Ride. It was well organized, experimental, and thought-provoking. It was also a little bit spooky. The actors all stayed in character, as our tour guide led us through the Valley. We took the Orange Line all the way to the Laurel Canyon and North Hollywood stops.
It was so strange, being in public yet having our own private theater experience. People stared at us as picketers charged at us with signs that were Anti-Art, as a ghost begged us for money, as dancers twisted and convulsed on a pole as we buried our secrets, as a woman sang jazz tunes to us. Their reactions were confused happiness. Dance, art, music, local businesses, and local history were woven together into a very moving experience. My head was spinning with reflection. LA is such a complicated city I felt overwhelmed, and so I hopped in my car and went home.
Overall, it was fun, insightful, and festive event and I really hope that there is another one next year!
*It was a collaboration from Theatre Magnet, a subsidiary of Artist Magnet, founded by site-specific producer David Mack, RENT Poet, founded by curator Brian Sonia-Wallace, the Eclectic Company Theatre, LA Poet Laureate Luis J Rodriguez, Douglas Kearney, Co-curator Nicelle Davis & the Living Poetry Project, Las Lunas Locas, Southern California Handweavers’ Guild, C.I.C.L.E., USC-VR, Imaginese Free Productions, Write Bloody Press, Tia Chucha’s Bookstore, Yak Press, Melrose Poetry Bureau, and funded by City of LA Artist-in-Resident Cy Grant and the Creative Economic Development Fund (CEDF), with support from the Surdna Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). Additional support comes from the LA Tourism & Convention Board, METRO and the Office of Councilmember Nury Martinez.
Photos by Edwin Vaquez, check out his work here.