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Supporting the literary arts in Laguna Beach

LitLaguna’s LB Expression, Spoken-Word and Hooping,

featuring Poet Phil Kaye, speaks volumes


Photos by Jeff Rovner

At the end of a day filled with heat and Santa Ana winds that charged the air with electricity, Poet Phil Kaye and five Laguna Beach High School students took the stage at the Forum Theatre at FOA, and much like collective static, moved the audience with the jiggly sparks of their words.

Suzanne Redfearn, one of Laguna’s Literary Laureates, again orchestrated a remarkable gathering, LB Expression, Spoken-Word and Hooping. Her most recent LitLaguna event on August 30, in which authors read works based on Jeff Rovner’s photo, Yangon Monastery Myanmar, was an enchanted merging of art and words.

And Redfearn followed it with another rare experience on Tuesday.

Suzanne Redfearn puts together another singular literary event

To begin the evening, Haley Rovner performed a stunning hula hoop number, enthralling the audience with her expertise and setting the mood for an imaginative trek into the poetry of five LBHS students. Chloe Bryan, Luka Salib, Logan Leeds, Yuika Yoshida, and MJ Walker read their works, which covered subjects such as the expectations of others and fitting in. Across the board, a gifted group of writers that we will no doubt be hearing from in the future.

Haley Rovner wows the audience

On the back cover of Kaye’s new poetry collection Date & Time, Terrance Hayes describes Kaye as, “a storyteller with a poet’s precision, metaphor and music.”

He’s unquestionably that and so much more. 

Kaye is a Japanese-American poet, writer and filmmaker. His work has been featured in settings ranging from NPR to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and viewed millions of times online. He has performed his original work in eighteen countries and was invited to open for His Holiness The Dalai Lama for the celebration of his 80th birthday. He is the co-director of Project VOICE, an organization that partners with schools to bring poetry to the classroom. He is a National Poetry Slam finalist, and the two-time recipient of the National College Poetry Slam (CUPSI) award for “Pushing the Art Forward,” given for outstanding innovation in the art of performance poetry. A former teacher of weekly poetry workshops in maximum security prisons, Phil was the head coordinator of Space in Prisons for the Arts and Creative Expression (SPACE). 

Kaye is not merely a storyteller, he’s a chronicler of his family’s history as well as his own. It’s as if he says, ‘Once upon a time,” and then beckons the listener to be part of the story, and one senses it’s a privilege just to be invited. He speaks with emotion so raw, it’s almost certain a cliff of sorrow or surprise or deep acknowledgement is near, but you don’t see the edge until you fall, and that’s where the magic lies. 

Before each poem, Kaye runs his fingers through his dark hair as if to clear his mind before he travels to a new landscape. And the landscapes are diverse, covering remembrances of lost love and a convertible Camaro in “Camaro,” worship of the Internet in “Internet Speaks Back to the Author, 2018,” and the devastation of a mind lost to cancer in “My Grandmother’s Ballroom.”