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ISSUE 121 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/5/2007

Literary scene stands out

By Kelin Loe
Opinion Editor
and David Henke
Variety Editor

Friday, October 5, 2007

D'Lo steps up to the mike. She has a shaved head and a few piercings, and she's wearing a baggy hoodie and jeans. "The gods have blessed D'Lo with **** to say," she announces, and leaps into flowing free verse.

D'Lo is a Tamil Sri Lankan-American spoken-word artist from Los Angeles; she has an energetic, quirky stage presence as she throws lines of spoken-word poetry out and sends audiences into fits of laughter with asides about her parents and Los Angeles. She was one of four spoken-word artists performing at the 200-seat Target Performance Hall of the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis on Saturday. Spoken-word artists Juliana Hu Pegues, Regie Cabrico and Sonic Rain also recited poems at the event, which was as much a stand-up comedy act as a poetry reading.

Their recitation was a part of the Equilibrium spoken-word series, which took place in the 200-seat Target Performance Hall. Equilibrium, a bimonthly spoken-word series, marked its fifth anniversary with its performance on Sept. 29. The long-running series is focused on providing artistic expression for members of marginalized communities. D'Lo, Cabrico, Sonic Rain and Hu Pegues, the four featured artists in Saturday's performance, were from an Asian background and identified themselves as either homosexual or bisexual.

For the most part, their performance was bold and brassy, like when Juliana Hu Pegues proclaimed "Imagine that I have a cape on, and some rough, ****-kickin' boots. I am a hero, the one you've never heard of."

The recitation had its moments of vulnerability, too, as the spoken-word artists touched on issues of race and sexuality. "I figured out what kinds of guys are attracted to me," Cabrico said during one of his verses, "they're usually anthropologists."

The Loft is located on Washington Avenue South, near downtown Minneapolis. It's only a few blocks away from the Metrodome, so on any given football night an interesting blend of literature geeks and sports fans mingle in the bars and on the street.

The Loft actually attracts a wide variety of participants. Founded in 1974, it sought to cater to the interests of both readers and writers, and is now the largest and most comprehensive literary center in the nation.

The Loft still strives to cultivate the individual artist. They host classes and workshops in many topics ranging from craft oriented "the basics" to more advanced craft workshops in topics like "the creative process" to the pragmatic "writing realities." They also have classes in the specific genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and children's literature. In addition to offering classes, the Loft also awards tens of thousands of dollars in grants to aspiring writers in the Minneapolis area.

As a part of their mission, the Loft caters to the reading and listening community, as well. They sponsor book clubs and other focused discussion groups and also invite speakers from every background and literary genre. For an event calendar, visit the Loft's website at www.loft.org.

As expansive as the Loft is, it is only part of a broad Twin Cities literary community. SASE: The Write Place (pronounced "Sassy") is an organization similar to the Loft.

SASE was founded in 1993. It was created to fulfill the need for a writer's organization that was affordable and accessible for writers of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. SASE recently merged with Intermedia Arts!, and the organizations now work together to foster their unique approach to the arts, inspiring communities toward social change.

With a smaller course catalogue than the Loft, SASE offers programs that specifically encourage young writers from the age of nine all the way up to 19. They also offer a reading series and several grant programs for emerging writers and spoken-word poets.

In addition to these two active literary centers, the Twin Cities fosters the independent bookshop culture. Magers and Quinn Booksellers, in uptown Minneapolis, is one of the largest independent bookstores in the Midwest. They host multiple readings and discussions a week, as does the University of Minnesota Bookstore at Coffman Memorial Union. The Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, Inc., the oldest independent feminist bookstore in North America, also hosts a myriad of events and book clubs from their store.

With all of these event-driven literary venues, the Twin Cities benefit from a culture of active thought and education. The Loft places a heavy emphasis on education, especially spreading the sounds of marginalized communities. The Equilibrium Spoken-Word/Poetry Series seeks to amplify voices forgotten in American popular culture.

The literary community of the Cities is thriving, and as a result we get to enjoy spoken-word shows like Equilibrium, where artists like D-Lo and Regie Cabrico entertain gaggles of snobby book nerds in dimly-lit, brick-lined performance halls.





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