English professors improvise poetry reading

Poet laureate of Los Angeles, Eloise Klein Healy, was scheduled to give a reading at Santa Monica College on Thursday, but she fell ill, which resulted in an improvised poetry performance by SMC's English professors Will Doucet and Mario Padilla.

The full details about what struck down Healy have not been released, SMC English professor and event organizer Hari Vishwanadha said.

But the reading was carried on with an altered lineup when Doucet and Padilla presented an hour and a half of their own poetry and music to an audience that was apparently unaware that Healy was a no-show.

There was no sign of protest and no voices of alarm. Instead, students and colleagues were riveted by the reading, expressing appreciation with occasional interjections.

Doucet was the first to stand before a packed lecture room to read poems that captured everyday life from the grand to the small.

After recalling his years as a college student in San Francisco, when he dated dancers and performed with a hip-hop crew, Doucet shared poems that revived his memories in the minds of the audience.

In the world of Doucet's poetry, a pedicure from a Korean beauty shop worker turned into an expression of erotic desire, Los Angeles became an isolated kingdom of steel drenched in rain with beaches that Doucet called "the lip of an empire," and police bullets were used as missiles aimed at a young, helpless girl in urban America.

Following Doucet came Padilla with a high-energy presentation of his poetry and songs from his developing musical about the struggles of growing up as a Latino in contemporary America.

Padilla proceeded to play musical songs with pounding '80s beats and soaring female vocals that conjure up early Tina Turner.

SMC English professor Eleni Hioureas left the hall impressed by the display of depth and creativity.

"I appreciated the empathy and compassion that Will Doucet exhibited in his poetry, and was charmed by the graceful rhythm of Mario Padilla's poetry and music," she said after the presentation.

Doucet said he hopes that students came away from the reading with a keener interest in the creative force of words.

"I hope they gain a greater appreciation for the arts and for poetry," he said.

Doucet disagreed with the widespread conception that appreciation for the written word was dying out.

"It's overblown, to be honest," he said. "I think a lot of youth today have a real appreciation for poetry, primarily because of the close relationship between poetry and hip-hop and the lyrical expertise of the emcees. Because of that, I think there's been a resurgence of poetry."

As a poet in today's society, Doucet said he feels "obligated to tell the truth, one's own truth, and to be a member of the community."

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