Poet, songwriter, and environmentalist Kirk Lumpkin recently retired and now lives with his wife on 80 acres of undeveloped land in Mendocino County in Northern California. After two years of managing their land for forest health, wildlife diversity, and to reduce the possibility of a catastrophic wildfire, he realized he needed to get a better attitude toward poison oak, because he was spending a lot of time with it. So he started with Kate Marianchild’s book Secrets of the Oak Woodland which he quotes from in the introduction to the poem.
Now he’s a State Certified Naturalist and writing poetry about the itchy vine. For this guerrilla reading he stands in front of a crawling expanse of the stuff in its lovely red phase.
Lumpkin’s poem, “To Poison Oak,” appears in Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, edited by Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan. [Full disclosure: two of my poems appear in the anthology.] If you want to learn more about California’s environment and humans’ complicated relationship with it, poets are a great place to start.
In fact, poison oak is an excellent place to begin.
The International Communication Association‘s annual conference is usually a rather staid affair with a couple thousand academics from around the world sharing knowledge with their peers on the “study, teaching, and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication.”
This year’s conference was mostly the same, but with a twist: a new Making and Doing exhibition where people working in participatory knowledge-production practices were invited to share their work. GuerrillaReads set up a cellphone and pocket projector to present twenty videos at the Making and Doing exhibition during the opening reception. We also handed out a zine that offers nine lessons we’ve learned from running this literary arts engagement project for nine years. (Copies are still available by request.)
The next morning we set up our camera near the main registration desk and invited ICA presenters to share their work guerrilla-style. Research on media and communications is more important than ever right now, and the issues and concerns are global, as the next four videos will show. We’re happy to share this important research with a wider audience in this special #ResearchMatters edition of GuerrillaReads.
Dr. Michael Brüggemann of the University of Hamburg in Germany explains his research on the role of journalists and journalism in the climate change debate. He says we need a new model of journalism if we are to save our planet.
Dr. Heloisa Pait of São Paulo State University (UNESP) talks about the paper she wrote with Juliana Laet on the role of cellphones and other screens in street protests in São Paulo that ultimately led to the impeachment of the president of Brazil.
Dr. Jerry Domatob of Alcorn State University in Mississipi discusses his research on media across the 54 nations of Africa, its strengths and limitations in a geographically wide and ethnically diverse region of the world.
Dr. Dylan McLemore from the University of Central Arkansas talks about trying to build a predictive model of how people respond when presented with media messages they disagree with. #FactsMatter, and how we respond to facts matters too.
At a recent public meeting of the Los Angeles City Council Arts, Parks, and River Committee, a members of the Melrose Poetry Bureau delivered their public comment guerrilla reads style. No ordinary bureau-cats, these poets talked about the importance of the arts to their communities and their lives. They urged LA City Council to invest in the arts as an investment in the people of Los Angeles.
City officials are strict about time limits on public comment – watching the seconds count down while the poets do their magic adds a layer of tension and suspense to this video – but they all hit their marks and took a well-deserved bow at the buzzer.
Several of the Melrose Poets reprised their performances a few weeks later before the LA County Board of Supervisors when they discussed a motion related to the Arts Commission’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative, where I saw them live and in person. Jonathan Rios’ poem about growing up homeless and finding his voice through writing was a compelling moment in a day of heartfelt testimony to the power of art to transform lives.
The Melrose Poetry Bureau is the brainchild of Brian Sonia-Wallace (alias the Rent Poet).
If 2017 has you paying more attention to the intricacies of government structures and electoral politics than you ever thought you might, consider adding a dose of poetry.
So there we were one Sunday in March, standing on the corner of Sunset and Sanborn in Silver Lake, shooting guerrilla readings by some amazing LA area writers as part of the first-ever Lambda LitFest. We had everything from seriously sexy poetry, to a preview of a memoir we can’t wait to read, to the live reading of a Wikipedia entry. Then who should wander into our frame but Marga Gomez herself, the one and only.
“Marga!” we shouted, then introduced ourselves. She seemed surprisingly unsurprised to be recognized by random strangers on the streets of LA. We asked, “Do you want to do a guerrilla reading?”
If you know, Marga, then you know we didn’t have to ask twice. She pulled out her phone and started reading an entry from the secret, undiscovered diary written Anaïs Nin about the day she visited Disneyland.
Click here to see all the videos from the GuerrillaReads Lambda LitFest Video Walk.
There’s nothing like live poetry in the streets to remind you what a beautiful, crazy world we live in. In this guerrilla reading, Olga García Echeverría tells her doctor – and the world – that Este cuerpo es mío. Watch out for that dancing flan!
Born and raised in East LA, García is the author of Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas (Calaca Press and Chibcha Press 2008) and blogs from time to time at La Bloga. This reading was part of the 2017 GuerrillaReads Lambda LitFest Video Walk, where you can also see her reading the work of Tatiana de la Tierra.
Lynn Harris Ballen is perhaps best known as a senior producer and co-host on KPFK radio’s fearless Feminist Magazine. She’s also an important player in the LGBTQ literary scene in southern California.
Ballen grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era. Her family’s role in the struggle for majority rule in that country is at the center of the memoir she is currently writing. In this guerrilla reading, Ballen gives us a tantalizing preview of the story she will tell.
And with that, GuerrillaReads turns 100 today! I’ll admit, we’re kinda proud to still be alive and kicking.
You can find poet Federico Villalobos-Zambranou at TheOxfordSemicolon.
You can also find him here on the GuerrillaReads Lambda LitFest Video Walk. We stepped across the street from the corner where A Different Light bookstore once stood, and shot his guerrilla reading in front of Rough Trade leather shop.