"If you call yourself a poet," states Lawrence Ferlinghetti in his Poetry as Insurgent Art, "don't just sit there. Poetry is not a sedentary occupation, not a 'take your seat' practice. Stand up and let them have it."
Before I mention the spectacular In the Grove tribute to Andres Montoya, let me just mention something about a reading last Wednesday at Frutas del Sol in Chula Vista, where kids certainly took the mic and "let them have it." The scene: A group of eighth graders assembled after school to talk, laugh, eat, listen to music, and recite some of their own poetry in a restaurant/gallery. Mr. Medina, their teacher, set up this reading series to offer his students a place to express themselves. He kindly invited me to check it out and read a little of my stuff. As far as expressing themselves, the kids did so and more. The vibe was positive, I say, and I couldn't help but smile by the way they handled themselves as peers/friends/activists of the word. To make a long story short, the night was inspiring; first, because I realized quickly that this reading series was in good hands and should continue for a long time. And second, some of the work I heard already showed the promising signs of a group of young people entering into the great debate about issues as varied as war and immigration; however, after listening to some of their works, they proved that these issues may not be varied at all. To paraphrase a poem five girls wrote together in 'five minutes,' You're afraid of our bilingual tongues, because you've always insisted that we speak only one language--silence.
Despite a couple of brief shouts from the woman behind the counter to remind kids to pick up their orders, or the raspado machine that chewed up ice for what seemed like minutes at a time during a few readings, the event was a success. I will certainly return for the next one.
As for the In Grove Reading, I can't express how wonderful it was to be there. You can read a great post about the event at Oscar Bermeo's blog.
It was nice to finally meet a few people in person, especially people whose poems and stories I've read and enjoyed so much over the last few years. Daniel and Sasha Chacon were great hosts and really made everyone feel comfortable. It was also a pleasure to meet Lee Herrick, editor and poet.
During the raffle, my wife won the Andres Montoya poster with his poem "Letter to Sarah" on it. It was originally posted on the side of a fleet of buses, I think. I won a copy of Craig Santos Perez' constellations gathered along the ecliptic , also in the raffle, a real prize.
I don't want to single out any specific reading(s,) because I think they were all wonderful, everyone working 'the word' like matadors. Look up In the Grove and buy it! You won't be sorry.