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Chapter 5 of Love and War includes: The Roof is On Fire, Word Is Bond, Say the Words and You'll Be Free, and The Mic Is Open.

The Roof Is On Fire

Microphone check

Mic check one two one two

Up there on the rim of the stadium

Can you hear me in row 522?


Oh, I must be dreaming

Everyone knows that poetry is just for the coffeehouse


A hobby...

Word Is Bond

“We don’t have poetry slams,” says Besskepp, impresario of A Mic and Dim Lights, the weekly Pomona, California poetry event now in its sixth year of continuous operation. “A lot of times when venues have poetry slams, you get a lot of tension, a lot of competitiveness. Not having slams sends the message that we’re just here for poetry, we’re here for each other.” “We’re here for each other” had a special meaning in the early days of A Mic and Dim Lights. Besskepp—aka Cory Cofer, former University of LaVerne all-conference football player and current high school special ed teacher in West Covina—didn’t have much company. In fact, the crew of poets who came to read could and sometimes did just sit around a table to perform.


But the concept of a venue for Inland Empire wordsmiths slowly but surely took hold. A Mic and Dim Lights outgrew its first home at the Millennial Arts Lounge and its second one at Taco de Nazo. It now attracts upwards of one hundred people a week to the Downtown Cal Poly Center theater at 300 Second Avenue in Pomona...

Say the Words and You'll Be Free

Even if your first listen to the Slam soundtrack is a casual one, experienced as background music while playing cards or making love, it would be hard to miss its surface power--the soaring vocals, incandescent samples, razor sharp raps, steam-blasts of poetry. Later, you might vaguely recall the variety of ways a dozen-plus producers set the table for the verse and chorus, the lyrics and poems, the words, to be the main course.


But you can’t truly savor them until you’re alone and undistracted. Only then can you take in the full depth of an album that follows in the footsteps of Walt Whitman, who wrote shortly before the Civil War that the purpose of poetry is “to cheer up slaves and horrify despots...”

The Mic Is Open

I know everything about Diamond Bar even though I’ve never been there. I know that if you knocked on almost any door, talked your talk and made people comfortable, they would invite you in. They would bring you coffee and ask you to stay and watch the game with them. As they relaxed and began to trust you, they would begin to let you in on little secrets. Poems they’ve written. Drawings they’ve done. Songs they’ve recorded on a Casio four track. Little films they’ve made on their cell phones.


It might be Mom or Dad or the kids. Uncle or grandma or neighbor. Brother or sister’s email which has the music they’ve recorded in Iraq. These people don’t line up at open mics. They don’t know that open mics exist. They don’t know that open minds exist, minds open and eager to hear what they have to say. Minds open enough to understand that a mortgage problem can wind up a sex poem, that having a cousin in prison can make you paint a picture of a forest, that ugly abuse can foster beautiful music...

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