By Donn Swaby


There’s a new hot spot in town where warrior-poets’ words drop like tongues of fire. While here, audience members, poets and non-poets alike, sample some of L.A.’s best tamales and bop their heads to the rhythm of the poets’ scathingly tight verbal deliveries, punctuated by the funky beats of the resident house DJ, Lady Sha. That’s right; I’m talkin’ ‘bout Elements, the bi-monthly poetry slam held on the second and fourth Friday of every month at, the colorfully decorated restaurant, Momma’s Hot Tamales, across from the historic MacArthur Park.

Elements was started back in 2003 by a female warrior-poet named Damnyo, who fell in love with writing while still in high school. “I began writing for a class,” said Damnyo, in an interview after the most recent poetry slam “When the class was over, I realized that I was pretty talented with words. But then, my heart got broken and the floodgates were open. I couldn‘t stop writing. I‘m addicted,” stated Damnyo, whose name, given to her by a really good friend, is a derivative of daimyo, the name of the highest ranking warrior in Japanese culture. That addiction lead her to perform at many various open mics around the city before eventually starting one of her own. “I wanted a spot where poets could share a piece of themselves, she said, “I wanted a spot where we explore all the elements of the arts and hip-hop.”

Elements is hosted by the vivacious, sassy Tamara Blue, another warrior-poet and grand slam champion, who also fell in love with the art of writing in high school. “Tamara and I are really good friends,” said Damnyo. “We hooked up basically by seeing each other all the time in the poetry scene, and we just click! I suck as a host and Tamara loves hosting.”

“We tried, and it fit.” As someone who has seen Tamara Blue in action, I must say she is every bit the talented, funny, sexy, high energy host that anyone would want to present a poetry slam event. Oh, and she can spit mad words too! She recited a poem called “Thick,” in reference to her short, voluptuous figure, and she rocked the house.

The poetry slams are graded by audience judges on the scale of one to ten. The winning poets are invited to be on the Downtown L.A. Poetry Team, a group of spoken word artists who represent their city in a national competition. “It’s like a poetry convention,” said Damnyo. “We are all part of a community that is very well linked,” adds Tamara Blue, “We are all in contact with each other all over the nation.” When I asked Damnyo how she finds poets she said, “I keep my eyes open, and if I’m really feeling someone I will accost them, or poets will refer someone.”

As for the future, Damnyo said, “I see my next book coming out, “Workin’ Celebrity,” maybe a CD in the near future, touring, and performing more.” As far as Elements goes, she plans to continue “to build a winning team and have one of the hottest open mics in L.A.” Judging from the phenomenal talent on display the night I attended, she’ll have no problem doing just that.

Elements held on the fourth and tenth of every month
From 8:30 PM to Midnight at
Momma’s Hot Tamales
2124 W. 7th Street
L.A., CA 90057
(213) 487-7474
Admission: $5.00


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© Melt Magazine 2006