At a recent public meeting of the Los Angeles City CouncilArts, 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.
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.
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 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.
Tatiana de la Tierra was a force to be reckoned with. She was a bilingual, bicultural writer who focused on identity, sexuality, and South American memory and reality in her work. She also established the first international Latina lesbian magazine Esto no tiene nombre.
De la Tierra passed away in 2012, but her work and her spirit live on. Here, three poets who were friends of hers – Olga García Echeverría, Persephone Gonzalez and Cat Uribe – pay tribute to De la Tierra by reading two of her poems. Hang on tight for the ride!
Did you see us on the corner with our tiny video camera and big literature? A group of iconoclastic local writers showed up for the GuerrillaReads video walk at the first (annual?) Lambda LitFest on March 12. We met at the corner in Silver Lake where A Different Light once stood. More than a bookstore, A Different Light was a an LGBTQ community center and a safe space at a time when being out was dangerous. It was also the place where, guerrilla reader Lynn Harris Ballen told us, author and troublemaker Jeanne Córdova (aka GuerrillaReads No. 52) proposed to her. We read our works on the corner, paying tribute to everything A Different Light once stood for.
This week GuerrillaReads will post the work of one video walk participant each day. You’ll see
A tribute to the late poet Tatiana de la Tierra, by Olga García Echeverría, Persephone Gonzalez, and Cat Uribe
In her article at The Atlantic, Taking Literature to the Streets, Katharine Schwab profiles a number of terrific ventures around the world that take literature out of bookstores and libraries and, well, into the streets. GuerrillaReads was included