Photos by Shamara Reid
Love. Live. Laugh. This was the motto poets Ronald Preston Clark and Amen Ra came up with on a crisp San Diego evening four years ago at The Living Room Coffee House for an open mic they were planning to start. That same evening they came up with the name: Lyrical Exchange. In what Clark often calls an ‘auspicious’ start, attendance numbers planted doubt that the event would last. However, on January 3rd 2017 at Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center, the four year anniversary show brought in 224 people, a record for Lyrical. True to the theme, there was an abundance of love, life and laughter.
“The night went splendidly, and exactly how I wanted,” said Clark. “It’s good to know that people appreciated my contribution to Lyrical. It wasn’t just me, but they understood the work, time and effort I put in. This was a major part of my life for the past four years.”
The night was full of heartfelt performances and messages of appreciation from artists who frequent the venue. Shawn William, the featured poet of the evening, was flown in from Oakland and delivered a riveting set of spoken word that reflected on the life changing events that took place for him in 2016. William took time out of his set to mention the importance of the local artists who come here and keep the venue alive and encouraged them to keep building the culture here which he respects greatly.
“The energy, the welcoming ambiance when we have newcomers makes this place special,” said Chris Novelozo, a frequent performer at Lyrical. “The recognition of talent and of a really good performance and of art does as well. I come here because it’s a good outlet and tell your story in front of people who may or may not relate, but more often than not, someone will.”
The evening’s celebration also served as a farewell. After 4 years of hosting Lyrical, Clark announced he would be stepping down to focus on his teaching career at Gompers Prepatory Academy. Replacing him will be Amen Ra, co-founder of the open mic and member of the 2016 San Diego Poetry Slam Team.
“It almost felt like I was graduating,” said Clark. “I didn’t want to leave college after four years, but I needed to. I have the same mentality with Lyrical. 200 shows is a nice round number.”
“I feel honored to receive the torch and expand on what Ron and I started 4 years ago,” said Ra. “He’s done a remarkable job hosting and it’s been so much fun watching him grow as a host and person. I feel like he’s John Stewart from the Daily Show and I’m Trevor Noah stepping in. There will never be another host like Ronald Preston Clark, so I’m focused on being myself and letting the talent that comes through here know that Lyrical it’s always been about them.”
Lyrical Exchange is every Tuesday night from 8pm to 10:30pm at Queen Bee’s Art and Culture Center located in North Park at 3925 Ohio St. Doors and the sign-up sheet to perform open at 7:30pm.