Venice Reading Celebrates Lower Topanga

By Dan Mazur

On Sunday evening, December 1, the creative spirit of the Rodeo Grounds came to life in a small, dark room in Venice. "Lost Lives: the Poetry of Lower Topanga Canyon," a reading held at the Rose Alley Theatre, was organized by Pablo Capra, featuring poetry from the book he recently edited, "Idlers of the Bamboo Grove," as well as music and visual art by Lower Topanga residents.

VOL.26 NO. 25
December12, 2002 - January 15, 2003


As in the book, themes of home, community and loss were central, as the Lower Topanga enclave faces erasure to make way for the expansion of Topanga State Park. These shared issues gave focus and coherence to the work. The nine writers' poems flowed together into a unified whole—from Bond Johnson's tender concerns for his soon-to-be-displaced horse, to Catherine Holliss' love affair metaphor for facing the loss of her Canyon home, and Pablo Capra's yearnings for transcendence and inspiration in his boyhood surroundings. The audience, packed into the small space, was in tune with these feelings, laughing knowingly as Capra reeled off his reminiscences of dozens of past and current neighbors in "Rodeo Grounds Poem."

Other poets included Robert Campbell, Michele Capra, David Hayward, James Mathers and Daisy Duck McCracken. Frank Lamonea played guitar and sang. Hayward graced us with his accomplished jazz trumpet, and Johnson played classical piano. A constant visual accompaniment was provided by Lower Topanga "performance painter" Norton Wisdom, interpreting the words and sounds in constantly evolving images, and Mathers' paintings from the book were on display. The reading began and ended with a slide show of Topanga photographer David Blattel's pictures of Lower Topanga.

Through its various media, the two-hour event presented a vivid portrait of a unique place and its inhabitants. Certainly more personal than political, it was nonetheless a reminder that the otherwise-laudable goals of environmentalism can sometimes conflict with human values of home and community.


Historical Society's History, Jan. 15

The Topanga Historical Society will honor its longtime members and review its 29-year history at its January 15 meeting at the Community House. The slide-show program, "A Journey Through Topanga Historical Society's Past," presented by the Society's archivist Ami Kirby, will begin with biographies of Historical Society founders Katherine Penny, Albert Hoyt and Connie Hassakis and then proceed down the years, highlighting some of the Society's accomplishments. The journey will include a few local-history byways such as brief vignettes of Vance Hoyt, Bertha Corbett Melcher, the Malloy Ranch and the Trujillo homestead.

The 8 p.m. program will be preceded by a potluck dinner at 7 p.m. Those attending the potluck should also bring their own place setting. Coffee will be provided. Everyone is invited and there is no charge. For more information call (310) 455-1969.


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