MAN IN BACK OF HALL: What about Lee Mallory?

INFANTE: Jane Cassady's a little new to the scene, having only started writing in January, but the girl's got more talent than Irvine has closeted liberals. Her first poetic hit was a killer vignette about picturing herself "a sort of housewife to the Revolution" and greeting the Revolution at the door with an Utne Reader, saying, "There, there, you big, strong Social Construct, you." A self-described postmodernist—which evidently means she makes references to The Smiths and Kant in her poetry—and a student at the Laguna Beach Art Institute, Cassady is one of the freshest, most innovative poetic voices I've heard in years.

MAN IN BACK: Give us Mallory or give us death!

INFANTE: Look, pal, when you're getting 15 frigging press releases a week from the guy, you can give him an award. Next, we have Paul Suntup. Suntup, who was born in what's been called "the Laguna Hills of South Africa," has distinguished himself by serving on two Laguna Beach slam teams, including this year's—which would have been better if it had, well, a girl on it. And, hey! It wouldn't have hurt if the city of Laguna Beach had chipped in to fund it a bit, but sources say former Laguna Mayor Steve Dicterow's exact comment on the subject was, "Talk to me about it after this Festival of the Arts thing is over"—like letting one arts organization suffer is a good way to deal with another leaving. Well, guess what, Steve? Rumor has it that the Laguna Slam's moving to Long Beach as soon as they nail down a venue. Maybe they should rename the high school football team "the Wylands" because pretty soon, that's all Laguna Beach'll have left.

[Offstage whispering.]

INFANTE: What? Oh, yeah: Suntup. Starting off as a kind of romantic, lightly surrealistic poet, Suntup has blossomed into a latter-day Frank O'Hara—a wildly surreal visionary. In addition to his Slam work, Suntup is one of the directors of the Five-Penny Poets reading series, along with Mifanwy Kaiser, Michael Paul, Mindy Nettifee and, um, me, which brings a lot of those muckety-muck literary poets into town to read. Yeah, that's right. I'm a closet snob. That's right! I'm a fraud!

[Poet Charles Ardinger, wearing his trademark waistcoat and fedora, leaps to his feet in the audience.]

ARDINGER: You're not the fraud! I'm the Fraud!

[Artist Phish Blackler holds up a tape recorder that plays a recording of Ardinger saying, "You're not the fraud! I'm the Fraud!"]

INFANTE [regaining his composure]: Marcia Cohee. Not one of the flashiest poets in the county, Cohee is more than just a talented writer. She is the ground for the entire scene, a meditative earth mother resting within the quiet confines of the venerable Laguna Poets reading, the oldest weekly series in California. In an alternate universe—or maybe Russia —Cohee would be one of the best read and most famous poets. Her work is elegant and lush and delves deep into environmentalism and women's issues with an unparalleled grace and a commanding knowledge of mythic symbolism. In fact, Cohee's so good I wouldn't even put her on this list at all, aside from the fact that major publishers have been blind to this titanic literary presence. Sure, they'll publish Jewel, who can't spell Charles Bukowski's name right in the introduction to her book, but they overlook this amazing presence whose works weave Orange County into a world of wilderness and coyotes. Sigh. And the winner is . . .

[INFANTE goes to open the envelope when suddenly Lee Mallory appears onstage, grabs the trophy, and runs, screaming, "IT'S MINE! MINE!" Before he gets to the door, he's pounced on by three burly security guards, who wrest the trophy from his hand.]

INFANTE: Ahem. And the winner is . . . Marcia Cohee!

[Cohee makes her way to the podium and takes the trophy after Infante wipes Mallory's blood from it.]

COHEE: I'm amazed to find out I'm a slammer. I have never sought the title of an old-lady slam poet. I'm in complete shock. Thank you!

SWAIM: Marcia Cohee, ladies and gentlemen! You know, I've always been one for Milton when it comes to poetry—Milton who wrote "Hide me from day's garish eye/While the bee with honied thigh/At her flowery work doth sing."

[While Swaim pauses, the camera swings vertiginously to the audience deep in slumber.]

SWAIM: Thigh!

[The audience rouses itself.]

SWAIM: [With finality.] And now a short film on Orange County's Best Bee guy.

[A screen rises behind the stage. The house lights dim. The words "Bee Movie: A film by Len Acnob" appear.

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