A Mic and Dim Lights, a poetry spot in Pomona, is a haven for up-and-coming poets, professionals and novices alike.
‘I got a message for you all, I’m waiting for my final call. Tryna stay away from the prison and stain stall, and when the rain fall I can hear a faint call.”
For six years, that has been the opening poem at A Mic and Dim Lights. Audiences enter a dim, crowded room full of people of all ages, races and genders, listening carefully to the poets’ words.
For the past six years, students, writers and residents in the Inland Empire have had a place to go where they can enjoy listening to poetry or even sharing something they have written. This is because of two men who took it upon themselves to start something in the community for poets to express themselves. Never did anyone imagine six years later how much it would grow.
University of La Verne alumnus Corey Coffer, 32, and his friend James Brady, 32, decided they were tired of driving to Los Angeles to listen to poetry. They were tired of being late to poetry lounges and missing out on signing up for the open mic nights. They decided it was time to bring poetry to the Inland Empire. In October of 2000, Coffer, better known as Besskepp, and Brady started their own poetry spot called A Mic and Dim Lights.
“We had no place to go read our poetry and it was too much driving for us, so we started Dim Lights and at first it was only about five, maybe ten of us,” Coffer said.
Dim Lights began in Millennia Art Gallery in Pomona and has moved to the Downtown Cal Poly Center Theatre in Pomona.
“We have three locations and they are all on 2nd street in Pomona,” Coffer said. “We want to stay there because that’s where people know us, they know we are there.”
“In the beginning, we would go to the art gallery, sit on the couches and read our poems. Some weeks we would have five people and other weeks we had ten people,” Coffer said. “But the reason I think we grew was because we always stayed consistent. It was each week and people came.”
The poets who consistently attended and helped the growth of Dim Lights still attend to this day, poets such as, Tamara Blu, Kat, Ghetto Spear and Brother Duhvooay, to name just a few.
“It was always about the writing for us,” Coffer said. “It was always about our craft and improving in it, that was our main intention. However, some of us have had a little lime-light with it.”
Many of the poets, including Coffer, have had the opportunity to perform on HBO Def Poetry.
“It wasn’t our main goal, but the opportunity did come, and at different times for many of us. But we have all taken it,” Coffer said.
Coffer also said that Dim Lights has given many poets exposure and opportunities to perform in front of different crowds, different schools, and has also inspired many people to write and continue the growth of Dim Lights.
ULV creative writing professor Kirsten Ogden, has invited Coffer to come to the university and speak in her classes several times. Coffer explained his enjoyment at being able to come and read his poetry at his alma matter, as well as watching other students bringing it to the school.
ULV student Monique Chambers, 21, a senior biochemistry and athletic training major, has brought poetry to the ULV campus by creating an annual poetry night. For the past two years, Chambers has thrown two successful shows and has had many poets, including Coffer, read their work.
“I was amazed by what Monique did. It’s great to see that poetry has even come to my old school,” Coffer said. “I think Monique is brave. As a freshman in her first month at this school she threw a poetry night all by herself and it was great. I know how hard it can be to throw functions at the school, and the fact she did it alone, it amazed me.”
Chambers explained that Coffer reached out and helped her when he heard what she was doing. “Having Dim Lights helped me when I did my show because a lot of poets who spoke at my show came from Dim Lights, Besskepp, himself, as well,” Chambers said.
Coffer loves to watch people such as Chambers continue on this path of spreading poetry in the community.
“If it wasn’t for Dim Lights, I wonder where a lot of people would be,” Chambers said. “Each week there is someone on the mic who is speaking for the first time and expressing their emotions, and if Dim Lights wasn’t here, it makes me wonder what other outlet they would have. That’s one of the great things Dim Lights has brought to the community, an outlet for expression.”
David Oliver, 23, better known as Judah1, was one of the many who have been with Dim Lights from the beginning, and credits Dim Lights for who he has become.
“I wouldn’t be who I am without Dim Lights. I wouldn’t search for the answers in life if I didn’t listen to other people and their stories,” Oliver said.
Dim Lights has been recognized across the country as one of the truest poetry spots in Southern California. Oliver explained that there are poetry spots that are considered “Hollywood” and simply for show, but Dim Lights is recognized for being a place where there is true art.
“As much as we love seeing our crowd grow, because for the past two years we’ve had a packed audience almost each Thursday night,” Coffer said. “What we, myself and the other poets who have been here for years, love is to get new writers to share their craft. That’s what we truly relish.”
Coffer hopes to see Dim Lights continue to grow. The next step for Brady and Coffer is to get their own building, still on Second Street, where they are known to be, but still a place of their own. Coffer said that by having a building of their own, they won’t be limited to a certain day and time frame.
“We do rent our building. By having our own, we could hopefully expand it, maybe have a teen night, serve food or wine eventually, but it would be on our terms,” Coffer said.
“I feel like we have reached our peak, really, I don’t want to move Dim Lights because the whole purpose was to keep it in the community and hopefully have more of the youth attend. I would have loved a place like this in high school,” Coffer continued. He expressed how he would like to have a teen night, or at least have Dim Lights exposed more to the youth so that instead of parties they could be doing something fun and productive. Coffer wants to reach more and more people that way.
But for now he has been able to reach those with his words and as he normally closes his show, “…instead of wearing bullet-proof vests, we’ll be wearing tie die shirts with pride, f*** going outside, let’s stay inside. I’m tired of fist fights, just like gym tights. I’d rather be in Pomona, California, at A Mic and Dim Lights.”