Griffith Jenkins Griffith was a journalism graduate. He was an eccentric and extremely wealthy man who was self-made and very human, which attributed to his many flaws. A writer who made his millions in California mining, he spent 2 years in prison for crimes of passion due to delusional instances caused by excessive alcoholism. Although he was the man he was, the most important thing that happened to ‘Colonel’ Griffith was, his time spent in prison caused a humbling to his poet’s spirit and when released, he donated 3015 acres of his accumulated lands across Los Angeles to the making of a park he wished to give to the people. Thus Griffith Park is oftentimes referred to as ‘The People’s Park’ as gifted by The Colonel who also built for the people of Los Angeles, The Griffith Park Observatory and The Greek Theater.
In the early days of February, The Los Angeles Poetry Examiner met up with the creator of The Poetry Circus, Nicelle Davis, herself quite adorably eccentric, and discussed the upcoming arrival of the Poetry Circus to the People’s Park. In the spirit of the same generosity as the Colonel’s Nicelle’s initial Poetry Circus was in celebration of her own poetry collection, ‘In the Circus of You’ (forthcoming in March from Rose Metal Press) but now, in the realization that the circus in the true meaning of it’s origins, the circus is an entertainment and sharing of various arts and skills and is brought to a city or village’s people for all to enjoy.
With much anticipation and excitement we bring the news to all of you with an encouraging invitation to be as eccentric, and come in costume to enjoy poetry as shared by some of Los Angeles’ great poets who have just recently joined the circus.
The following interview should answer most of our questions as to what exactly is The Poetry Circus?
Los Angeles Poetry Examiner: What is the poetry circus? Where and when will it take place?
Nicelle: On February 28th from 5:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. you are invited to join The Poetry Circus at the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles.
Part performance, ride, dance, and creations, The Poetry Circus will host twenty poets reading their work to an audience seated on painted horses. Yes, it’s a poetry ride! Surrounding the poetry merry-go-round will be booths housing literary organizations such as The Los Angeles Review, WITS, RENT Poet, Melrose Poetry Bureau, and The Los Angeles Poet Society.
There is a designated area for children to participate in crafts and interactive poetry activities, such as The Poetry Parade. Poet and performer Peggy Dobreer will lead the Poetry Parade; kids will make and play handmade instruments to accompany her amazing baton twirling performance. There will also be live circus performances by the Post Mortem Movement Theater to delight adult circus lovers.
The event has been designed to offer all ages a chance to run away with the circus. It’s free and open to the public. It is a dream—well, it could be a dream come true, if imaginative people, like you, are willing to join in. For the circus gains its magic by inclusivity; so, you are the magic of the circus.
Los Angeles Poetry Examiner: Who created the fun theme and is it an annual event? If so, how long has it been running?
Nicelle: I created this event is hopes of broadening the scope and audience of poetry. I’ve hosted several odd poetry readings in the past, including The Poetry Prom in Pasadena and Santa Monica; I’ve also held poetry readings in bowling alleys and arcades.
The Poetry Circus is by far my largest production and I’m hopefully going to host many more readings like it. In fact, I’m talking with friends in Colorado about hosting a Poetry Circus in their mountain community. I would love to have The Poetry Circus be an annual event. If people want a circus, I’m more than happy to give them a circus.
This initial Poetry Circus is in celebration of my poetry collection In the Circus of You (forthcoming in March from Rose Metal Press), which features artwork by Cheryl Gross. Our work investigates what is human and who gets to be human. The book focuses on the themes of sanity, monogamy, motherhood, divorce, artistic expression, and self-creation to curate a menagerie of abnormalities that defines what it is to be human.
I think an important part of being human is shared experiences, such as the circus. The more we do and make together, the stronger our connection to humanity, which (hopefully) lends to more humanitarian impulses.
Los Angeles Poetry Examiner: In your opinion, how are poets and poetry an important part of our culture and why?
Nicelle: Poetry is subversive; it is the language of the sacred clown—the Shakespearean fool.
Poetry is the truth we’d rather not hear brought to us by an unheard melody we cannot ignore. Poetry makes the truth palatable—it helps us digest reality by seasoning it with dreams. It smells like rain and connects us to the world. It makes us look at one another, care about each other.
You cannot hold a poem without feeling a little more human. Poetry is important because it is culture—it tricks us, fools us into being kind.
For example, it has been the circus and poetry that have protected and provoked me to go after my own life. I guess I want to share this gift with kids of all ages—this is your one and glorious life!
I created this event to welcome people into the tent of poetry. Welcome to the Poetry Circus.
Los Angeles Poetry Examiner: Nicelle, in your opinion, why is it important to introduce poetry to our children?
Nicelle: Children are born poets. They intuit metaphors and naturally form similes in order to help themselves understand the world around them. They want to understand more than they want to define the world.
This is a magic we cannot afford to lose because this impulse is at the root of innovation; if we crave a better world then we have to enable the young to develop their poetic and creative skills yet—we need to encourage them to imagine and take action towards a better future.
I watch the gift of poetry stripped from children on a daily basis—they are told it is silly and worthless when they should be encouraged and rewarded for dreaming and creating. Poets should be the first to welcome children into poetry—to embrace language and value art.
Los Angeles Poetry Examiner: What is the line-up of Los Angeles poets booked for the event?
Nicelle: Here is our amazing schedule of events:
5:20 Welcome to the Circus (Nicelle Davis reading)
A brief introduction to the Poetry Circus and its players
Let’s do poetry!
5:30 Jacqueline Tchakalian
5:40 Katie Manning
5:50 Eric Morago
6:00 Melanie Jeffrey
6:10 Jessica Piazza
6:20 Blas Falconer
6:30 Laurel Ann Bogen
A word from Nicelle!
Poem / Introduction: Nicelle Davis
6:40–6:50 Performance by Post Mortem Movement Theater
6:50–7:00 Children’s Marching Band and Performance by Peggy Dobreer
7:10 Kate Gale
7:20 Suzanne Lummis
7:30 Yvonne de la Vega
7:40 Lauren K. Alleyne
7:50 Kim Dower
8:00 Ron Koertge
8:10 Brendan Constantine
8:20 Douglas Kearney
…A theater performance at the circus!
8:20–8:35 Performance by Post Mortem Movement Theater
LAPE: Will most everyone be in costume and have you checked the weather forecast for this coming weekend?
Nicelle: I am hopeful people will come in costume. We also have costume elements to give out at the event. This being said, no one has to come in costume.
I have been checking the weather forecast every hour for the past week. It does look like rain, but I’m actually excited for this. The Merry-Go-Round is housed in an indoor structure. I’m having heating lamps delivered to ensure that everyone will be comfortable at the event. We will also have light snacks, coffee, and hot cocoa (maybe even a little wine) to keep people warm and happy.
I’m someone who loves the outdoors and enjoys the elements. If it rains I’ll be sure to bring enough umbrellas for us all to dance in it. When it gets dark I have 1,000 glow sticks to turn us all into earthbound stars. Nature and all it brings is a gift for us to enjoy.
If it doesn’t rain, we will still dance. It’s all-good—the unexpected has been anticipated.