What is a FLAP, you ask? It is a Famous Los Angeles Poet. And how do you become one is not all that difficult.
First make sure you don’t take yourself too seriously.
I had some early success as a poet: as an freshman I won an award from the Academy of American Poets (first place even) that gave me a very high opinion of myself. In fact, it made me fairly intolerable to be around when I started to get into where I thought I belonged in the constellation of poets.
The year was 1976 or 77. And I was what I called a Baby Poet, working several part-time jobs at the same time: slinging books at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in West Hollywood, writing for a magazine BooksWest (which called itself the west coast version of Publisher’s Weekly), running a poetry series at the Hyperion Theater in Silverlake and whatever else came my way. Oh, and I also was writing poetry like a house on fire.
For some reason, I could not figure out, the literary world was not as taken by my poetry as I was. Despite copious submissions and tons of stamps I was not receiving the recognition I felt I deserved. I was reminded of the conversation between Lancelot and Guenevere from the play Camelot when they first meet: Lancelot is holding forth about what an superior knight he is, a gift to the world and humanity. Then Guenevere turns to him and asks him, Have you jousted lately with humility?
It occurred to me that perhaps I needed some humility-jousting lessons. I did not want to wear a hair shirt (never liked itching) . I thought that perhaps the idea of being a professional poet was irrelevant in the 1970s and that if I made fun of myself it might have a better result. Advertising one’s services or at the very least getting people to talk to you might be the way to go. I had youth and the babe-factor on my side. I had a t-shirts made that read FLAP and I wore them at all arts and literary events. FLAP stood for Famous Los Angeles Poet. When people asked me what / why I had emblazoned it on my shirt I would draw them into a conversation about poetry. After awhile, I got tired of just writing FLAP on the t-shirts so I did a few that read: 1 out of 5 Remaining FLAP. Not that I knew the other 4 or whoever they might be, but it got folks talking. People started referring to me as Laurel Ann Bogen, that famous Los Angeles poet. In fact that became one big silly breath: LAURELANNBOGENFAMOUSLOSANGELESPOET.
I laughed all my way to the book rack.