Lee Mallory, affectionately, known as The Grandfather of Poetry in Orange County, hosts and produces the second-longest continuously running series of live poetry readings in Orange County. The readings are held monthly at the Alta Coffee House on the Peninsula, and feature not only live poetry performances, but live music and open-mike readings.
Mallory is on a mission. He is a poet and self-proclaimed zealot who is dedicated to shattering stereotypes about poetry and reversing the damage that bad high school English teachers have done, turning students off from narrow definitions of what poetry is.
“Poetry is exciting,” says Mallory. “It is highly relevant to our lives.”
He believes he if can get people into his readings, their view on poetry will not only change, but they find themselves inspired to try their hand at writing poetry themselves.
“I have had people come up to me and say, ‘I am finding myself (through writing),’” he says.
Mallory, who teaches English at Santa Ana College, has written several poetry books, edited scores of others, and has been writing poetry since the ’60s.
A lot has changed since he began. For one thing, Mallory believes that , although we need technology and it has made our lives easier, it has also estranged us from one another.
“A co-worker will send an e-mail to another co-worker who is just a cubicle away,” he says.
The importance of poetry is greater than ever, Mallory points out: “We rarely slow down and take stock of who we are and what we are. Poetry brings some order out of the chaos. It is a moment of tranquility; it helps center you in the world. Like a weather report of the heart.”
Mallory strives to keep a human dimension beyond all of the cold technology. He does not have a cell phone, an ATM card, or a computer at home. He chooses to take the bus to work because he would rather be out among people.
Although he is an educated man, Mallory attributes his life experience as the most influential factor in his poetry. From his time spent as a child living for a period of time in Beirut, Lebanon, exploring a foreign and interesting place, to teaching English in the South of France; from the pain of losing a daughter, to the seemingly mundane bus ride to work each day, Mallory finds the entire gamut of humanity rich with inspiration.
The Grandfather of Poetry has a bit of grandfatherly advice for budding poets on what makes good a good poem:
– The writer needs to write from a base of experience
– A good poem allows the reader to “step into the moment” and put the reader there.
– A good poem is a communion of sound and sense – it does not have to rhyme.
– Poetry is different than prose in that it is compressed. Every word is super charged. Each word has to carry its weight.
– Experience is far more important than book learning or intellect
April in National Poetry Month and what a better way to celebrate than at a poetry reading? Wednesday, April 13 at the old shipyard turned cafe, Alta Coffee House, Mallory and fellow poets John Gardiner, Ricki Mandeville, and Jeanine Jarrell will present an entertaining evening. Also, stick around for the open-mike segment.
Copies of Lee Mallory’s most recent collection of poems, “Now and Then” (Moon Tide Press) will be available for purchase.