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.
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.
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.
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.
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!