This is the only performance at Postopolis! LA - and this genuinely was a performance - that I just had to close the laptop and stop ‘recording’. So expect notes to be short, entirely in inverse proportion to my enjoyment of Mike Sonksen aka Mike the Poet.
A third-generation LA native, Sonksen’s a tour guide and teacher by day, and however you describe this by night. Coming on like the unholy union of a rapper, gospel preacher, the late night ranting of a gentleman of the street, a particularly engaging geography teacher and an unhinged urban planner, he careered around the Standard’s conference room, a bundle of energy to close out the night. His repeated mantra - “I’m A-Live in Los Angeles!” - providing punctuation between about 4 or 5 poems depicting the history of the city, its music scene, its authors, its landscape etc.
Entirely spoken-word, it’s a little like Mike Ladd or Saul Williams without the backing tracks - less lyrically or sonically adventurous, for sure, but hyper-focused on Los Angeles, and so unique. Mike Davis, no less, has said “Mike The Poet sings the flatlands and the mean streets. In the City of Quartz, he is his generation's Walt Whitman.” Davis, who taught Sonksen at UCLA, has also said "He's the hipster antidote to my glum books."
Sonksen has a CD and non-glum book called I’m Alive In Los Angeles, and you can hear a few of his pieces up at MySpace - though it’s odd to hear the slightly sanitised, slower versions of those poems there. They hardly compare to seeing Sonksen from a few yards away, voice overloading the mic, words tumbling out of his mouth, the room a suddenly engulfed in a raging torrent of street names, myths and cultural history.
Although we'd moved inside by this point - it was a bitterly cold night 15 storeys up - this is one session I wish could've been back on the rooftop. It would've been amazing to see him in that context. Still, the very next ‘performer’ at Postopolis! LA, the following evening, would be the LAPD’s Chief of Counter-Terrorism. Which was just about perfect.