The Ripple Effect: Instilling a new generation of poets

Several students from Malibu schools took part in the Ripple Effect 2024 Poetry Summit on May 4 at Malibu City Hall. Photos by Devon Meyers/TMT

Annual poetry summit celebrates poets of all ages, youth artists, and musicians 

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times 

Poets of all ages, their admirers, and avid arts enthusiasts gathered at Malibu City Hall on May 4 for The Ripple Effect 2024 Poetry Summit, an annual event hosted by the City of Malibu Arts Commission’s poet laureate committee. 

Malibu Poet Laureate Nathan Hassall, some past Malibu poet laureates,  other professional poets, and young emerging poets who attend Malibu’s schools all performed their verses. 

Malibu student artists’ wondrous artworks were displayed and provided a beautiful backdrop for the poetry performance. Local ensemble A Call2Peace performed instrumental music to accompany poetry performances, providing an embracing lovely ambience. 

“Nathan, our gifted, artful-hearted, modern Romantic poet and fellow ‘Brit in the Bu’ local poet laureate spoke about how songs are directed to the heart,” Ellie Mae McNulty said. “Today, we were brought back home by the vibrant, unique, brave voices that helped us to recognize our true selves and to change in ways we needed to.”

Hassall brilliantly set the tone for the occasion, exploring its theme and sharing his own inspirations and poetry.

“Why ‘Ripple’?” Hassall queried. “When we do anything that makes a sound — twang a guitar, stamp our feet, laugh, sob, speak — a ripple spreads from us through the air. Each thought we have is a pebble dropped into the lake of ourselves, causing a unique ripple to course through our bodies and minds.”

The attentive audience murmured in agreement.

A firm believer in poetry’s transformational potential, Hassall further discussed the event’s leitmotif: “Ripples emanate from us and into others and emanate from others into ourselves. They are not always visible. They are not always audible. But they are happening all the time, everywhere” 

He summed up by saying, “The questions are: can you feel one right now? What ripples are you responsible for?”

Professional poets who recited included former Malibu Poet Laureate Ann Buxie, who has hosted “Tales by the Sea” in Malibu since 1995, providing a forum for literary artists to share their stories; former Malibu Poet Laureate Ricardo Means Ybarra, whose dedicated passion to the Writers in the Schools program across Los Angeles County inspired Malibu’s poetry committee to teach, share, and inspire poetry in Malibu’s schools; Jen Cheng, the poet laureate of West Hollywood and author of “Braided Spaces,” who read her intensely impressive poem “Ten Thousand Butterflies,” published at; and Bill E. Goldberg, a master in penning phrases employing the rhetorical devices of repetition and alliteration.

Malibu’s next generation of poets

All the reciting accomplished poets well know that poetry empowers creatives, allowing them to express inner emotions, and allowing them to wonder, to describe, to lament, to admonish, to challenge, to celebrate, and so much more. The experienced poets fully appreciate the value of instilling in future generations the knowledge and acumen required to compose in the poetic genre. 

Ybarra, Malibu’s first poet laureate, and poetry committee member Jolynn Regan, who both shared their own works at the event, have also shared poetry’s magical and empowering potential with public students in Malibu. What was so inspiring at the event was that the young poets’ recited works manifested that they thoroughly appreciated the poetic abilities they had honed.

Include more children

From young Legend Rocca, who is in elementary school; students Ayla Aminzadeh, Lillian Burkner, Perla Franco, and Emma Marshall; to Sophie Regan, a graduating Malibu High School senior who was in the inaugural class when the Poet Laureate committee members began teaching poetry in Malibu schools eight years ago, the young poets evinced that they were blessed with creative, expressive talents. Their confidently recited works thoroughly impressed attendees.

“We’ve Done Good,” Sophie Regan’s poem, manifested the success of teaching poetry in Malibu’s schools, all the while serving as a metaphor for how creatively successful Regan’s K-12 Malibu school experience has been.

“As I throw my sign to the sky

Reflecting on every tear that I’ve cried

every pain I’ve felt

How my heart has lept

The truth is

I wouldn’t change a single one

For every embarrassing moment to every time I’ve pushed myself to

every feeling I’ve felt — We’ve come a long way.”

Attendees young and old listened with rapt attention and leaned in, seeking to share in the young poet’s celebratory story.

“You care less about about perception from others

You’re no longer a reflection of your brother

You are now your own person.

You stand as strong as a willow tree.

May your branch’s leaves blow in the summer breeze

It’s your time now.”

Throughout all the performances, a Call2Peace’s musical pieces seamlessly served as a metronome that helped those reciting time the meter and cadence of their poems. 

“We improvised many pieces based on the key/note of the speaker,” bassist Eduardo del Signore explained. “We also played some Bob Marley and my compositions, ‘Atlantico’ behind Ann Buxie, and ‘First Answer’ accompanying Nathan in certain parts of his performances.” 

Intrigued by the age-old debate regarding whether creativity is inherited and inherent in one’s soul or is learned through exposure to the arts, this journalist asked Jolynn and Sophie Regan their stance regarding that riddle. 

“Growing up in an artistic household definitely gave me the ability to dive into creative expression.” Sophie Regan said. “However, I believe that my discovery of poetry was by nature and who I am as a person. I didn’t watch my mom write and then make poetry. Rather, it came to me organically, and now we both plan to write poetry for our whole lives.”

Ironically, by happenstance, another poet, Shifra Wylder, shared her relevant verse:

“Like ripples in a lake created by one stone, 

She is the sum total of all the ripples;

Ballerina, artist, rockstar, drummer, scientist, veterinarian and nurse

She is every girl who dares to dream.”

Tremendous! Simply tremendous!

So many of those who experienced the poetic gathering were also moved by the music and the elementary students’ artworks providing visual context for the poems. Many contemplated how important poetry is to them.

Attendee McNulty remarked about how lovely the event was. 

“Transcendent jewel of our community, this wonderful poetry summit event!,” she gushed. “The poets were touching and moving and opened our hearts with their own authentic voices — giving us all this vital collective memory of our heart’s song.”