Poetry at the Wall

A first-of-its-kind event was held at Malibu City Hall last Saturday—the city’s first annual “Call to the Wall” Poetry Summit hosted by the city’s first poet laureate, Ricardo Means Ybarra. It featured not only poetry readings from eight talented poets (four published professionals and four emerging artists), but also live musical performances by DPAK, on-stage art to accompany the poetry and music, and a reception afterward.

Catherine Malcolm-Brickman, chair of the City’s Cultural Arts Commission, kicked off the event, which drew about 60 people to the Malibu Civic Theater in city hall. 

“Malibu isn’t just 21 miles of scenic beauty,” she said, “it’s also 21 miles of great artists.

When introducing Ybarra, she noted he had “set a high bar” since becoming poet laureate in March 2017. 

“He’s transporting our community,” she said, “He read a poem at last summer’s Concert on the Bluffs and has been tireless in conducting workshops and mentoring students at our schools. He gave life to the Caffeinated Verse series at the Malibu Library.”

Caffeinated verse, which just celebrated its second of three performances, is a three-month-long spoken word series at the Malibu Library, from April to June on the first Saturday of each month, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Ybarra read a poem that he had written especially for the occasion. 

“This is probably the only time you’ll ever hear it,” he laughed. He told the audience that listening to a poem is “always a journey” and likened the day’s event to an “ancient fire circle” when people gathered around the fire at night to hear stories. 

The featured poets included not only Ybarra, but the poets laureate of three other local communities:  Kim Dauer of West Hollywood, Enid Osborn of Santa Barbara and Phil Taggert of Ventura County. All four have received numerous poetry awards and have at least one book of published poetry. Each of the poet laureate guests read at least two poems they had written. 

The subject matter of the poems ranged far and wide, as well as the mood—some were humorous while others were serious. The topics included everything from last year’s lunar eclipse, to visiting a loved one in the hospital, to seeing a fortune teller, to road rage, to life in the desert.

Of the four young, upcoming poets, billed as “emerging artists,” two were from Malibu. Featured poet Coco Joelle Williams graduates from Malibu High School with the class of 2018, and will be attending NYU in the fall as a double major in dance and literature. Although dance was described as her passion, she also loves poetry, and has been writing for many years. 

Eleven-year-old Jocelyn Zabaldo, a fifth-grader at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, is a well-rounded girl who is a Little League pitcher, a member of the swim team, an AYSO soccer player and a violinist in addition to writing poetry. The poem she wrote and read was titled “Bad Advice for the Morning.”

In addition, the audience heard a number of ant-themed poems written and read by Nina Clements, an assistant librarian at CSU-Channel Islands. 

Grace Teranishi, a senior biology major at Westmont College, writes poetry with a humorous twist. One of her poems described wine at a wine tasting in Sonoma County after the wildfires as having “notes of charcoal.” 

The on-stage art, which consisted of one large piece on each side of the stage, and an ever-changing slide show on a large center screen, was all the work of Malibu people. Ivo Spirov, a well-known local artist famous for his bold, colorful works, created the artwork on the left side of the stage and the slide show. 

The art on the right side, which depicted an actual wall as a nod to the the “Call to the Wall” title of the event, was created by Mrs. Levy’s fourth and fifth grade students at Juan Cabrillo.

Ann Buxie, one of the organizers of the long-running “Poetry by the Sea” program in Malibu and a big fan of poetry, said of “Call to the Wall,” “I’d want to point out how the audience stayed afterwards to talk with each other and get to know each other. Poetry stirs up the pot, and brings people together to ponder the meanings of their lives. 

“I am so glad the city is making space for poetry and supporting it,” Buxie continued. “A city is defined by its culture. A sign in Malibu reads ‘Come to surf and stay to shop.’ As the city continues to offer and to support more cultural happenings, people will begin coming for the culture!”

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