#AWP16 Featured Presenter Q&A with Luis Rodriguez
AWP | March 2016
Event Title: Poetry, Politics, and Place: A Reading and Conversation with Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Luis J. Rodriguez, Sponsored by Poets House
Description: These leading poets read their poems and discuss their poetry-activism in New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and around the country. Each engages poetic practice and community building with projects that expand poetry's place in our lives and culture: Griffiths through photography, Nye through writing for children, and Rodriguez through publishing projects and political organizing. The transformative power of poetry brings these three together to talk about how we can make a better world.
Participants: Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Stephen Motika, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Luis Rodriguez
Date & Time: Thursday, March 31, 2016, 1:30pm – 2:45pm
Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) and/or bookfair exhibitors you are most excited to see?
A: The Los Angeles Small Press Collective will have a booth featuring Los Angeles-area small presses. Los Angeles is known to have more book readers than any other US city, yet its publishing potency is not as well known. Here’s a chance to see some of the innovative and crucial small presses making a difference in LA literature.
I also think AWP’s panels and readings this year are some of the most diverse and innovative to date. Yes, more can be done—and I will always be a voice and advocate for this. Still, I’m going to make the most of the many fine ideas, skills, and knowledge that AWP brings to Los Angeles in 2016.
Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (New York: Back Bay Books, 2009); Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012); The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015); Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha (Oakland: AK Press, 2015)
Q: Given how much time writers spend alone to practice their craft, what do you think are the advantages of creating the large community that exists at the AWP conference?
A: It’s about extending a long and ongoing conversation about US literature, its beauty and bounty, but also about the wide gaps that have missed the multiplicity of voices and stories that actually make up American people and culture. AWP is one place for me as a busy writer, speaker, and performer to break out from my bunker of a home office, surrounded by books, computers, and supplies, so I can share, listen, learn, and impact.
Q: What question that you’ve never been asked before would you like to ask yourself? And how would you answer that question?
A: Q: What is the soul of the work, the depth of it, the fullness of genius that can be brought to bear to literature, performance, and expression in this particular time, this particular place?
A: There’s a kind of stasis with how people often see art, creativity, writing. All creation, culture, and art flows and transforms with the motive changes in society. Imagination, ideas, and creation, in turn, impact and contribute to the liberation of conditions for more art, more stories, more genius. A complete human being, and the condition required for this, is ultimately to be a complete creative being.
Q: Outside of the conference, what about Los Angeles are you looking forward to? Are there any Los Angeles activities you would recommend to conference attendees?
A: On March 30, 2016, as LA Poet Laureate, I’ll host a reading of LA-area poets from the new massive anthology, Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shakes of Los Angeles. The Ace Hotel, Beyond Baroque Books, and Tia Chucha Press are sponsoring this offsite reading during AWP. Doors open at 6 p.m. This event is free, but donations are encouraged. It’ll be held at the historic Theater at Ace Hotel and will include music, food, as well as tons of great poetry. Address is 929 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015. This anthology may prove to be the largest and most comprehensive featuring Los Angeles poets.
Luis J. Rodriguez was named Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014. He is the author of fifteen books across a number of genres, the most recent poetry titles of which are My Nature Is Hunger: New and Selected Poems, 1989-2004; Trochemoche; and The Concrete River. A critic, memoirist, and activist, Rodriguez has been the recipient of a PEN West/Josephine Miles Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He serves a founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder and president of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore in California. (Photo credit: Arlene Mejorado)