After retiring from teaching, it would have been easy for poet Lee Mallory to stay at his Southern California beach-town home and bask in his well-established local reputation while penning the occasional free-verse love poem.
Instead, he moved to Las Vegas a year ago and is trying to reinvigorate the poetry community.
In the time he’s been here, he has already performed his poems at coffeehouses, bars and even a casino.
“I want to bring poetry to the people — it’s my passion,” Mallory said. “I want to shatter the stereotype that poetry is something boring and irrelevant to our lives. I give a very dynamic, highly compressed and exciting show.”
Mallory considers two different poets to be his mentors: Kenneth Rexroth and Charles Bukowski. The former was more of an academic, traditional poet, known for idyllic, romantic and pastoral poems. The latter was a hard-drinking, earthy, no-holds-barred poet. The pair couldn’t stand each other’s work and often asked Mallory what he saw in the other.
“My work falls somewhere in between the two extremes of Rexroth and Bukowski,” Mallory said. “I’d like to think I took the best elements of the two of them to create my poems.”
Outside of the academic world, Bukowski is the better known of Mallory’s mentors, but he is concerned the public misunderstands him.
“His gravestone says, ‘Don’t try,’ and people think that’s a negative thing, like he’s telling people not try to do things,” Mallory said. “It’s quite the opposite. It’s a statement about not forcing the work and letting it flow from you naturally.”
In Mallory’s time in Las Vegas, he has made many connections among established poets and wordsmiths, but he knows he has only scratched the surface and is seeking to make connections with more. Writer Chip Mosher saw him perform at the Whitney Library in April, and he was impressed.
“He has an energy level that is infectious,” Mosher said. “He believes in what he’s doing, but he’s coming to Las Vegas, which is kind of a black hole for intellectualism and things like poetry and literature. It’s not our forte.”
In general, Mosher finds Las Vegas writers isolated and cliquish and notes that few have much success beyond the valley.
“The transitory nature of Las Vegas makes it difficult to establish the kind of things Mallory wants to do,” Mosher said. “I think he’s striving to create a venue and revitalize the scene, and I actually hope he does.”
Mosher fears the cause may be lost before it begins and that Mallory may be tilting at windmills, but the transplanted poet is upbeat and confident about the art and his ability to make it work in Las Vegas.
“Poetry can get us back to the universal touchstones we’ve lost sight of, whether it’s love, yearning to get back to nature or a feeling of connection,” Mallory said. “I really believe poetry can do that. I’m a zealot for poetry.”
Mallory is set to perform with musical accompaniment by Nate Segundo at 6 p.m. June 26 at Ichabod’s Lounge, 3300 E. Flamingo Road. For more information, visit ichabodsloungelv.com or call 702-451-2323.
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.