Transmopolis » Wild Reports » Dr Mongo: LA’s Spoken Word Superstar

Dr Mongo: LA’s Spoken Word Superstar

by Michael Jack Lawlor | 26 December 2010 |

Dr Mongo Taribubu is drinking beer with a group of friends on the patio at Boyd’s, a bar on San Pedro St in downtown Los Angeles. They are joking about a Canadian videographer who was caught using a wireless microphone to eavesdrop on Dr Mongo’s private conversations between spoken word performances on Central Ave.

“He’s probably listening to us right now,” said Dr Mongo.

The sun is setting softly behind the corporate skyline on Bunker Hill. Along San Pedro St men are preparing for nightfall by setting up tents and cardboard box shelters on the sidewalk.

Silence graces the table. The urgent themes of homelessness and surveillance dissolve in the urban twilight as the friends share a quiet moment. Dr Mongo breaks the silence.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

The words are from Invictus, a Victorian poem by William Ernest Henley. Dr Mongo explains that Nelson Mandela, moved by the poem’s powerful themes of self mastery, used to recite the poem to fellow inmates imprisoned on Robbin Island.

Invictus, the Latin word for “undefeated”, is an apt metaphor for Dr Mongo’s literary achievement. A poet and spoken word performer, Dr Mongo has reported candidly for more than 50 years about prison, death, racism, spirituality and love.

“Dr Mongo deals with the underdog, people who are struggling psychologically or financially,” said Brooklyn-based poet Cynthia Toronto. “He understands these things because he has lived through them.”

Once a month after church people gather at the Watts Coffee House on 103rd Street in Los Angeles for informal R&B and spoken word performances. Dr Mongo is at Watts Coffee on a Sunday afternoon to perform Penitentiary, his signature poem.

“I wrote Penitentiary when I was doing time in penitentiary,” said Dr Mongo. “Oscar Wilde was one of my favorite poets at the time and the Ballad of Reading Jail had a great influence on me. I love the imagery.”

In the poem Dr Mongo personifies prison as a social institution devoid of justice and hungry for punishment. At Watts Coffee, he turns the performance of Penitentiary into a call and response with the audience.

I’m loathsome, ill-natured,
repulsively vile,
arrogance, treachery,
abuse is my style.

My name is Penitentiary,
I’m made of steel and stones,
and should you land in my domain,
I’ll crack your flesh and bones.

At the conclusion of the performance he receives a standing ovation from the after church crowd.

Penitentiary is a masterpiece,” said Los Angeles poet Christian Elder. “Knocks people out all the time and it will easily go down as the urban Song of Myself. The poem is extraordinary in its confrontation.”

“With performance poetry, you don’t just stand there and read, you perform from the heart,” said LA poet Mona Jean Calder. “Penitentiary is very shocking.”

Penitentiary is a universal poem,” said Dr Mongo. “If you are in jail in Mexico or Argentina or China or Japan something is taking place that will knock you into another reality.”

“Jail is a strong, dynamic, horrific place to be. I’ve served time. I’ve been through penitentiary riots. People have been killed right beside me when I was sleeping. You have the same violence in a penitentiary that you do out here on the street, but it’s condensed. A penitentiary is a microcosm of society.”

“You don’t know if you will be released or if you will die there. You don’t speak to anyone else about their crime or how much time they’re doing. You could be a guy doin’ a year or two and brag to a lifer about when you’re gettin’ out and the lifer will kill you. You don’t know what is in store from day to day. You just do your time.“

“People love hearing me do Penitentiary because I enunciate it well, I put it across. Poems should be enunciated in such a manner that a person is right in on the scene. I feel that poetry should be expressed in a manner that would put chills on a person. Motherfucker don’t want to go to jail.”

Dr Mongo was born in Memphis on March 12, 1940 and moved to Cleveland as a boy.

“I was separated from my family due to a tragedy when I was 5 or 6,” he said. “I was placed with very old people in my formative years. I had a very bad outlook on life at a very early age.”

Dr Mongo discovered his literary talent in the wake of the family diaspora.

“I started writing when I was 10 years old. I was writing some weird stuff. Zombies, vampires, ghouls and mayhem.”

“I was introduced at a very early age to Justine by the Marquis de Sade and Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. I read Monsters, Scoundrels and Fiends avidly. I enjoyed reading that kind of stuff and I wrote in that vein. It was different from Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and all that.”

Teachers at East High in Cleveland recognized Dr Mongo’s talent.

“They thought I had somethin’ a little bit different,” he said. “Mary Bell Hasken had me comin’ over to her place and we would sit back and discuss poetry and techniques.”

Dr Mongo went on to study literature and philosophy at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

After Case Western he explored educational alternatives.

“I hooked in with people who were creating their own schools,” he said. “In the early 60’s people were saying that Blacks could not be properly educated in a white system. We studied Black history. The history of Egypt, Timbuktu, Mali, Nubia. The true Egyptian history, intermingled with the lost civilization of Moo. These classes were mostly being taught in basements.”

“I was a disciple of Hatari Zawadi. He dealt with human nature. He changed my name. I was transformed from TM to MT. What was ironic about the name is that my birth name had 5 letters plus 8 letters. My new name has the same amount of letters in the first and last name. I studied with him for about 9 years. He had a place called the University of the Cosmic Mind.”

“I’m a master Master Technologist of Human Nature. I can get along with anyone. People feel the vibrations of what I am sayin’. They can tune into the expression of what I am sayin’ even if they don’t know the meaning. I’m about imparting vibrations through the spoken word.”

Dr Mongo’s poetry overflows with Americana. His poems contrast classic American imagery with social and historical reality.

In Mongorama Dagwood and Blondie appear beside Geronimo in the listeners imagination and the phantasmagoria of conflicting cultures, words and images is resolved in a harmonious vision of justice, peace and equality.

“I wrote Mongorama in Cleveland after going into deep introspection of myself trying to find out who I am, what do I represent, what do I stand for, what is my art, what is my sensibility, what are my emotions,” he said.

Dr Mongo contrasts images of Americana with historical truth throughout his work.

Katrina, Dr Mongo’s poem about New Orleans, invokes the TV show Gunsmoke, Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye, Mark Twain, Fats Domino, Emma Lazarus, Johnny Horton, George Bush, Martin Luther King, and traditional spirituals, as well as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Greek mythology and the corporate media.

In Tanabe, he refers to traffic lights as “old three eyes,” a riff on Frank Sinatra’s nick name, “old blue eyes.”

In Who Killed Michael Jackson? Dr Mongo mixes pop culture with the post-modern Americana of pharmaceutical branding.

Who or what killed Michael Jackson.
Was it Diprivan, Morphine and Oxycontin,
No way can we blame Osama Bin Laden.
Surely there’s an answer for Michael Jackson’s fall,
Will we ever know who knocked him Off The Wall.

“We live in a dual society,” said Dr Mongo. “Black. White. Just. Unjust. I’m aware of what America is. I’m an American. We live under the pretense that all men are born equal.”

Dr Mongo has been performing poetry live and organizing spoken word events for over fifty year in Los Angeles. In the early 60’s he introduced poetry readings at the Fifth Estate Coffee House at 8226 Sunset Blvd. The Los Angeles Free Press, the first underground newspaper in the United States, operated out of the basement at 8226 Sunset Blvd.

A few years later the Fifth Estate would gain notoriety as the epicenter of teenage rebellion in America.

Dr Mongo organized poetry events at many other Los Angeles venues over the years including The Whole, Little Tokyo Pizza Poets, To the Curb, Little Pedros, Pan Pacific Park, Black Writers and Artists Inc, and Project Politics.

He has recorded signature works such as Penitentiary and Mongorama with Drew Lesso, an algorithmic composer who studied in the 70’s with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Music School in Cologne.

Dr Mongo has also recorded with Love Grenade, a heavy metal band.

In the 80’s Dr Mongo was the poet in residence at Al’s Bar in the American Hotel on South Hewitt Street.

“I used to sleep in the bartender’s car,” he said. “Not because I had to but because it was available. He called it the Hotel Nova Scotia.”

A few years ago Dr Mongo served as poet laureate at LA CAN on Main St.

“He’s respected and renown amongst the artists,” said Jamaal As-Salaam. “He’s helped many, many people out who were down.”

Dr Mongo lives in a Skid Row Housing Trust building on San Pedro St. At night the streets outside his building are populated with hundreds of mentally ill and homeless people silently moving in and out of the primeval urban shadows.

“Isn’t this something,” says Dr Mongo as we stroll quietly through the crowded Skid Row streets. “I live in a very criminal area, the epicenter of skid row. You never know when someone will come up behind you and assault you. You don’t know.”

“I recite the 23rd Psalm at least 20 to 35 times a day because I feel once I recite that I’m protected. The whole world is the valley of shadow of death.”

“Everywhere I go I recite the 23rd Psalm. I recite it when I’m riding public transportation. You never know who’s going to attack you. I feel that the 23rd Psalm protects me.”

“I recite the 23rd Psalm when I am in Beverly Hills. A lady was recently shot 5 times in Beverly Hills. I recite the 23rd Psalm on Skid Row. A few days ago a couple butchered a guy at the Continental Hotel. He invited them up to his room for Thanksgiving because they were from out of town. They chopped him up and stuffed him in a duffle bag.”

Inspired by the Old Testament psalmist, Doctor Dr Mongo wrote Variation on the 23 Psalm.

“It’s  a modern day version of the 23rd Psalm,” he said. “The valley of shadow of death becomes the mean streets.”

The Lord is my provider,
He supplies all my needs,
He makes me to lie down
in sterile surroundings;
He guides me pass raging waters,
He restores my health when I am ill.
He leads me from paths of temptation
for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk
down the mean streets of uncertainty and death,
I will fear no evil. Your protective Hand
comforts me.

You prepare a table before me
in the company of my adversaries,
You anoint my head with oil,
My cornucopia runs over.
Surely, Your goodness and mercy
will be with me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the heart
of the Lord forever. Amen

In 1982 Dr Mongo witnessed the murder of an elderly Japanese man on the streets of Little Tokyo. To commemorate the victim, he wrote Tanabe.

Traditionally, an elegy is an expression of grief for the loss of a friend or important person. Tanabe, however, is an elegy for a complete stranger.

Dr Mongo responded to a senseless murder that would otherwise have been long forgotten by creating a profound meditation on the transitory nature of existence.

He mixes raw imagery with journalistic reportage and concludes with an affirmation of the victim’s immortality. The poem laments the uncertainty of life.

“Tanabe was written in the Digby Hotel on 1st and Alameda in LA,” said Dr Mongo. “I witnessed the murder from the third floor of the hotel. I happened to look out and see this guy pull out a lead pipe from beneath his shirt. He started swinging on him. I couldn’t believe he was beating this guy to death. I ran downstairs to hail the police. It became the subject matter for the poem Tanabe.”

Tetsuro Saki, a Japanese cinematography student at Los Angeles City College, filmed Dr Mongo performing the poem in his room at the Digby. Drew Lesso, a Los Angeles musician, composed a soundscape for the film. His arrangement was inspired by the symbolism of Japanese Noh theatre.

“The stomping sounds are notated as Noh theatre foot stomps,” said Lesso. “Against that meter I wrote the shakuhachi flute part. We recorded in one take. Noh theatre movement is about the realization that you are stomping against your own weight. Michael Rouse did the Noh foot stomping. I put these huge size 15 ½ shoes on him and taught him how to do the foot stomping.”

Saki’s film, directed by Rouse, was awarded first place in the San Francisco Poetry Film Festival in 1984.

“Anyone in the house from Missouri?” One person responds.

“Anyone in the house from Tennessee?” A few more people respond.

“Anyone in the house from Skid Row?” The room explodes.

Dr Mongo is warming everyone up before a poetry reading at the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) on Main Street.

LA CAN is a grassroots social service movement for people who live on the street and suffer from mental illness and poverty.

The activist arm of LA CAN provides educational and legal services to victims of police brutality and discrimination. The organization helps people living in silence develop a voice so they can exercise their civil rights.

“At LA CAN Dr Mongo brought together homeless poets and poets who have been doin’ poetry around in nightclubs, bars, art galleries and coffee shops since the 90’s,” said LA poet and performance artist Kennon Raines.

“Bringing people together from different poetry circles and venues over the years is no small task. It speaks well of Dr Mongo. He knows such a wide variety of people. You never knew who was going to wander in off the street.”

“I just got out of jail,” said Dr Mongo. “Anyone here ever been to jail?”

The room explodes again.

“Right on!,” yells Dr Mongo holding a fist in the air. Everyone follows Dr Mongo’s lead and raises a fist. Over the years the gesture has been used by the Black Panther Party, the Jewish Defense League, the American Indian Movement, Olympic athletes and the IRA.

Tonight folks on Skid Row have their fists in the air. Dr Mongo’s baritone fills the room. People are inspired by his leadership.

“Mongo is widely known as a generous spirit in the performance community and is regarded highly for his sense of activism in art,” said Christian Elder.

Dr Mongo delivers the first poem of the evening.

I was in jail with Paris Hilton,
but not in the same cell,
while she was receiving preferential treatment
I was catching hell!

The police arrested Dr Mongo on San Pedro St after a man claimed that he had threatened him. Unable to make bail, Dr Mongo languished in jail as his case made its way through the system.

“Paris Hilton and I were processed on the same day,” he said. “I was thinking about the preferential treatment she received. I wrote I Was in Jail With Paris Hilton because in jail you have to lie down on your face when they come in to feed you. They throw a bag of food at your feet. Apparently she was able to order food from the outside.”

“It’s not an angry poem, it’s really a humorous poem. I don’t begrudge her. I don’t begrudge the system. That’s the way society is. The haves and the have-nots. Those who can afford an attorney and those who can’t. Those who are celebrities and those who aren’t celebrities.”

The judge placed Dr Mongo on probation and ordered him to take an anger management class.

I Was In Jail With Paris Hilton was published in the October, 2007 edition of The Agitator, a Catholic Worker publication. The editors of The Agitator credited Dr Mongo as “a longtime friend of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker.”

Dr Mongo does not view himself as poet in the traditional sense. His affinities belong more to the theatre than the printed page. He has never published a collection of poems.

“Vincent Price was a master of dramatic reading. He has been a great influence on me,” said Dr Mongo. “I consider myself to be a dramatic enunciator rather than a poet. I get this from Edgar Allen Poe and Vachel Lindsay. You can emote their poetry. You don’t have to be all quiet about it. Poems got to be enunciated. That’s what I love about spoken word.”

The meter of Dr Mongo’s work is rooted in gospel and jazz.

“I was reciting poems at church when I was 7 or 8 years old,” he said. “I would do the different spirituals. I would recite them dramatically. On a hill far away, stands an old rugged cross.”

“His poems have a music that recalls the ferocity of bebop jazz,” said Christian Elder. “This is particularly evident in the way he plays between the spaces of words, his haphazard rhyme schemes, and his love affair with alliteration. The poems jump and jive, they jiggle and hustle and pop in your ears. They are entertaining and thought provoking pieces that challenge the listener or reader.”

Dr Mongo’s peers in the spoken word community speak highly of the power of his voice as an instrument.

“He has the most exquisite, low bass tone and sonorous voice,” said Cynthia Toronto. “A gorgeous vocal instrument. Easy to listen to and very powerful. His timbre is beautiful. His voice can be very soothing or, if he wants, a little scary. His voice has authority. An elegance and a sense of grace comes across in his poetry.”

Poets dread taking the stage after a command performance by Dr Mongo. A spoken word event was once cut short at Beyond Baroque in Venice after Dr Mongo performed Penitentiary. The other poets on the bill did not want to follow Dr Mongo’s devastating performance.

“Dr Mongo does not suffer the passive listener,” said Christian Elder. “He makes you embrace the narrative of his poems through the stage character he creates. The narrative paints a picture immersed in the natural selection of violence, drugs, and other abuses perpetuated in the urban terrain. And he will mercilessly pound you into submission with every syllable driving that point home. His performance delivery has a peculiar effect on most any room or venue because of its seemingly volatile unpredictability.”

Dr Mongo’s phenomenal memory is highly regarded on the spoken word scene and contributes to the authenticity of his work.

“Dr Mongo always performs his poetry from memory,” said Kennon Raines. “He uses very vivid images and very sharp, clear, accessible social commentary. His poetry is artful and creative, never obscure. He knows what he’s talkin’ about. The images are very powerful.”

Dr Mongo’s performances are very theatrical events that showcase his presentation skills. His peers admire his acting chops.

“Dr Mongo is very clear and focused on stage,” said Cynthia Toronto. “He integrates his voice, body emotions, and mind like a highly skilled actor. He is very entertaining and he means what he says. He’s the real deal. His performances are very spiritual and direct.”

Dr Mongo buys a small bottle of Gorki vodka for $2.99 at a liquor store on San Pedro St. He can drink this stuff straight from the bottle or mix it with cranberry juice.

Back on the street outside the store his cell phone rings. Feeling no pain, Dr Mongo, stands in the glow of a street light and delivers an obscure masterpiece – On the Eve of His Execution – from memory to a friend on the phone.

On the Eve of His Execution was written by Chidiock Tichborne, a 16th century poet, who was disemboweled in the Tower of London on September 20, 1586 for his role in a plot to murder the Queen of England and restore the kingdom to Rome.

The poem survived because Tichborne included the stanzas in a letter he wrote to his wife from prison the day before he was executed.

Dr Mongo’s recitation over the phone is flawless.

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

At 70 years of age Dr Mongo is exploring new vistas in his work. He disciplines himself to write two lines a day and he is learning to play blues piano. He regularly publishes new work on his website and occasionally makes appearances in cafes and bars around LA.

“Dr Mongo doesn’t deny the hardship of life or the beauty of life,” said Drew Lesso. “He is whole in his poetic expression. That is his triumph.”

Read I was in Jail with Paris Hilton on page 5 of the October 2007 edition of The Agitator.

Read Dr Mongo’s poetry at Doctor Mongo at Large 1.

Read more poetry by Dr Mongo at Dr Mongo at Large 2.

Check out Dr Mongo’s visual art.

Listen to Dr Mongo perform Penitentiary and Mongorama accompanied by Drew Lesso on piano.

Listen to Dr Mongo, accompanied by Drew Lesso on piano and Val Ewell on guitar, perform Hoodoo Man and Let’s Do It .

Watch Dr Mongo perform Penitentiary on the streets of San Francisco.

Watch Dr Mongo perform Jacks at the Ghost Busters Fire House 23 on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

Check out Christian Elder’s poetry, illustrations and films.

Listen to Nina Simone perform Mississippi Goddam.


  • Mark Simkins said:

    Good article Michael, catches the artist in action and gives a good portrait of the man and his mission.

  • Michael Jack Lawlor (author) said:

    Thanks Mark. I appreciate your kind words.

  • jon said:

    superb. i’ve spent a few nights in the Hotel Nova Scotia myself. any idea how the motor-tell got that name?

    and anyone who references Chidiock Tichborn next to Paris Hilton wins my admiration.

  • Michael Jack Lawlor (author) said:

    Thanks Jon. The bartender at Al’s Bar in the early 80’s was originally from Nova Scotia, hence the car in LA called the Hotel Nova Scotian.

  • melvin Ishmael Johnson said:

    Dr Mongo should be teaching a class down in the recovery Zone. The goal of a creative artist is to create create new art forms that speak to the human condition. Dr mongo is creating new art forms and enhansing the old ones. Dr Mongo it is time to put it all down in one book for those you are going to leave behind.

    Melvin Ishmael Johnson

  • Michael Jack Lawlor (author) said:

    Melvin, thank you for your sharing your thoughts.

  • Jamaal As-Salaam said:

    Mike, your article about “Dr. Mongo” is truely well written. Naturally the legend of this man is somewhat of a mystery. But his influence and long standing participation in the LA Arts Community make him a “legend”. You exquisitely captured the essence of Mongo and the things he does to push the envelope in poetry, performance art, and spoken word. I am so glad someone had the where-with-all to focus on him and his literary contribution to the “art of poetry”.

    The collection of online material about this man, now becoming part one of our senior writers, is growing. And I’m so happy to see that you have found him interesting enough to lend your dynamic and scholarly reporting to Mongo’s growing fame.

    And thanks for including me in a some small part…:)

    Jamaal As-Salaam

  • Johan said:

    Thank you for being so consize and prezise. This man and my dear friend has beauty in observance and passion in understanding. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Walt Klappert said:

    Doctor Mongo is a Los Angeles treasure.

  • tim reynolds said:

    Heck, Mongo, I never knew you were a celebritty!

    It wasn’t Little Italy Pizza,it was Shirley Ward (RIP) and the Little Tokyo Pizza Poets. Good times.

  • Val Ewell said:

    This is great! Wiggle Waggle!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • S.A. Griffin said:

    Dr. Mongo has been a vital voice in the community since as far back as I can remember here in L.A., was here long before I was when I made landfall in Los Angeles in September of 1978. Mongo is someone that I have always looked up to as a poet and performer and as a friend. He helped me to identify as a poet performer when I was coming up during the good old bad old days when punk was king. He is a deeply passionate performer and writer who takes the stage and owns it speaking directly to his audience. He is one of the best. His performances are always absolutely electric. A great poet and storyteller who speaks from experience, directly to and from the heart. As a tireless poet/activist, Dr. Mongo helped show me and many other younger poets the way; what being a poet in this mad world could mean, and was therefore, a very big influence early on. He is a real poet/hero giving voice to many who would otherwise not be heard. I remember him well from so many different venues over the years; The Lhasa Club shows during the 80s remain some of my favorite, those were amazing gigs. Downtown at the Rose Street Studios were some damned good times too, man I miss that place. Mongo’s calling out to 21st Century Poets remains one of my favorite pieces by any poet/writer. His poem for our late friend and poet/angel Merilene Murphy is a very moving and beautiful tribute. 9-11 What’s The Emergency, I Was In Jail With Paris Hilton, Penitentiary, Homeless People… it’s quite a list. Thanks for writing this article Michael, really glad to see you spreading the gospel of Dr. Mongo Taribubu, a true and original poet/maker from our dear Lady Queen of The Angels.

    Oh, and one last thing… I want some of what he’s having. That old sonofabitch never ages!!

    With much love and respect,
    S.A. Griffin

  • vlm said:

    My brother Mongo (brother in the arts and race) is a friend of all. He’s a great guy to hang out with. We have have spent much time together sharing poetry and life philosophy. Although I’m too close to him to see him as a “star” or celebrity, I recognized from the beginning his humanity and forthright personality. and have always been glad to call him “friend.” I wish him the best now and always.

  • DA Ward said:

    I remember going with Mongo and Drew to visit friends in downtown SRO hotels one night.

    Remember thinking: there is a parallel universe going on here: the same language, the same will to create, the same desires, but with some strange quirky force field over it all, such that the suburbs, the lawns, the mechanisims of power don’t apply. It was living wildly in the present. The expectations of everyone: just defend yourselves as best as you can and go on living wildly in the present.

  • Gregg Max said:

    Michael, This is another wonderful example of how you open my eyes to a world that is there; not seen my me. Thanks for that.
    I think Dr. Mongo is a facinating character and would be great inspirition to a playwrite. His poetry and his style are truly unique. Thank you for including the video of “Penitentiary”; the spoken version is soo mych more powerful than I could have imagined it. His power is definetly in his deliverly.
    The Paris Hilton poem made me chuckle until he said that food is delivered in a paper bag while you lie face down. Equality ? He is less shocked by it than I; I am more sheltered than he. The parallel universe that DA Ward mentioned.
    This captured a man who is not ‘capatureable.’ It is crisp, detailed and tight.
    And as happens for me with your writting, I decided to skim it and then read it later; I could not stop. I go away changed a little.
    Thanks, G

  • Bro Sankofa said:

    Thoughts abound and the rays of red violet somehow clash with a sip of wine (You will have your ray you have positively actualized self through self) LET NOT THE CIRCLE BE BROKEN. Sankofa from the mile high. Great imagination Yes just your imagination running away let it flow great work.

  • Phoenix Moonstone said:

    An artist such as this deserves to hear the praise of friends. Such a
    wonderful article and composite of Dr. Mongo’s work.

  • Daniel Kaefer said:

    Who is this guy! Penitentiary blew my mind. Whoever put this together
    deserves a thanks.

  • Rachel said:

    Love your poetry, Mongo! You write beautifully and with great honesty. I especially like your Variation of the 23rd Psalm.

    It’s a pleasure to know you!


  • Infinatee said:

    All I can say is WOW! Mongo’s unique genius was definitely captured in this article. From a sentimental standpoint, I am grateful and honored that he calls himself My Dad ~ Love U Mongo!

  • arnal kennedy said:

    Dr. Mongo is a true poet, artist, and enuciatior of the spoke word who has been a joy to know
    and experience as a person and artist. His poems are filled with truth and grit and under-
    standing of the human condition. His words and thoughts are filled with experience and depth
    that causes the reader and audiance to say, “Yes that is so true or I can agree with that or
    I never thought about it that way” congratulations Dr. Mongo posterity should know your work.

  • arnal kennedy said:

    Dr. Mongo truely deserves recognition for his work and diligence in the field of poetry
    a trooper, and O.G. in this avenue. Dr. Mongo is not a poet but an eunciator of the word of
    poetry, congratulations on your fine work and the blessing of this article. Posterity should
    know your work. arnal

  • Eric Ollison said:

    Dr. Mongo “Penitentiary” is my favorite poem of yours.I love how you give us the institution’s perspective of itself. It is very intense and your delivery stirs my soul. Keep up your excellent work.

  • drmongo said:

    I am thankful for all the comments entered on this site. I feel the love and honesty
    expressed in each of your posts. I thank one of my best friends, Mike Jack Lawlor, who gave such a good description of what I attempt to do. I love you all and blessings always.

  • Aurora said:

    I will say that I met this person once and he spoke. I met him again and he called me friend again.
    I have to say thank you for your kindness. I met yu twice and in my old age you made me feel valued .

  • Mongo Taribubu said:

    I just revisited the article you wrote to win a Press Club Honorable Mention. I want to say that you captured my essence when you commented on Tanabe. Yes, he was a stranger that I had known only in the spirit of my connectedness to all living things. Again, thank you for revealing such an intimate aspect of my nature. Things are what they are to be.

  • monja said:

    as i promised i take a look on your website and what i read impress me very much…you know my englidh id not very well therefor please forgive me when words are not on the right place…your work is very honestly and its a great honor that you share this with US…great honor to meet you…congratulations

  • monja said:

    hallo nochmal mongo…wie ich versprochen habe werde ich auf deiner seite vorbeischauen…ich habe alles gelesen und deine worte, verse, poems…all das beeindruckt mich sehr…es sind sehr wahre worte und es ist eine ehre das du dies alles mit UNS allen teilst…es ist schön dich kennenlernen zu dürfen…gott behüte dich…herzlichen glückwunsch und liebe grüße aus österreich


  • Jamaal As-Salaam said:

    Congrats Michael, you are such a fine writer and I think your subject was great. I have known Dr. Mongo for most of my life in LA. He is a hidden treasure and one of the best slam poets I have ever met. But his commitment to the spoken word is way beyond that. He is a treause. And your skill and concern about the community of LA is so important and your work speaks for itself. The LA Press Club is a great salute to you and to my friend, Dr. Mongo.

  • Jorge Luis said:

    He is the real LA icon wind of hope!

    God may be between you and harm
    in any empty place were you may walk.

    let move on into 2010!

  • Stephen said:

    Hey Mungo this is great stuff! I hope you are doing well

  • patrick said:

    yes, Dr. Mongo, interesting stuff, we all wish racism didn’t play a role in our world at all, keeeeeids love one another, its they adults that feeds them all the this difference and that difference, when there ain’t no difference at all, when it boils down to it. There is unconditional love.

    Then there is something about physics or something, maybe it’s voodoo to some people, or intuition to others. The brain still has not been totally understood. Not every person has chemistry with every person, and I’m talking individual to individual. You and I are water signs in astrology, so that’s why you and I have good chemistry together, when we talk as artists to one another, when we ‘connect’ verbally.

    All I can say is that if we are healthy and we hope for the positive, life is a little easier. When i’ve been unhealthy, i wasn’t attracting much other than negativity. Wellness has eight facets, I learned this from a teacher. She said “wellness is physical, social, spiritual, cultural, emotional, intellectual, environmental, and making/doing goals.”

    It’s good Dr. Mongo that you help people when they are down. I also like Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, and MLK & JFK.

    It’s fun to talk to you Dr. Mongo, the way we can enunciate words, with funny emotional exaggerations in the sounds of how we say words. I did go to grammar school in the Miracle Mile, and played with other keeeeeids [kids] from all over the world on the playground, playing kickball for instance, that was fun. We learned a lot from each other. I’ve been around diversity all my life.

    We all have good sides and bad sides. When I’m taking care of my health, more good things and actions happen. When I’m not healthy, I’m usually wasting time. I’d rather have a cup of coffee, and eat right, and exercise, and make some effort to better the outside world, even by making veggie gardens for people, i love gardening.

    Now I’m registering you saying, Dr. Mongo, right now at 1:36am, which is the time, and I’m laughing, you said ”okay Patrick, that’s enough, I didn’t want you to write no thesis, sheeeeeit.” No, but what else? On television once, some guy who stole a lot who went to jail was getting interviewed; the woman reporter said ”why did you steal?” The guy responded ”because there was no love in my family. If I wanted something from you, I’d take it from you, because I juuuuuust diiiiidddn’t caaaarre.”

  • shannon holzer said:

    I enjoyed the penitentiary poem Dr. This was truly a blessing. Shannon

  • John Kafkaloff said:

    Mr. Lawlor,

    I have to re-read this article again, and then, perhaps a couple of times more. So much information about a Writer, Dr. Mongo, which had to be written and fortunately you did. Good move including including the films and photos.

    Dr. Mongo you are truly blessed. Your powerful words will be remembered and your soul will live on.

    Michael Lawlor certainly deserved the Los Angeles Press Club citation.

    May you both keep up the good work for many years to come.

    Best wishes,


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