Ok. I've had a chance to breathe. It's time to reflect. But this time, I've decided to pass the mic to those who made this particular event so special, and so much more important than that other book fest in LA.
I'd like to think that Poesia Para La Gente's (PPLG) first appearance at the Grand Park Book Fest was more than just successful. Thanks to the good folks at Grand Park and the lovely Chiwan, Judeth and Peter of Writ Large Press, for inviting us to share what we do. What we do is bring poetry to the gente (people) of the community (the non-poetry community), using non-traditional spaces as venues, with the hope of maybe inspiring someone just a little (to make a bigger poetry community). The only way we can properly do that is by inviting good poets (good people) to share a little bit of what their idea of poetry is, to share their love for poetry, for community, to share their spirit - with the whole of the city. It's not easy to get out there, give it all you got, and keep at it for a few hours. It takes a lot of energy, especially under the sun. I want to give a huge out-loud thank you, and warm hug, to all of the poets who stopped by to say hi on Saturday and who continued to participate with hearts wide open -
Steve Abee, Gloria Enedina Alvarez, Khadija Anderson, Victor Avila, Dane Baylis, Brandon Brown, Billy Burgos, Juan Cardenas, Jessica Wilson Cardenas, Yago S. Cura, Iris De Anda, Peggy Dobreer, Nikita Liza, Bill Friday, Amanda Yates Garcia, Rebecca Gonzales, Xitlalic Guijosa-Osuna, June Kim, Kenji Liu, Karineh Mahdessian, Wendy C. Ortiz, Crystal Little Bird Salas, Fernando Salinas, Elena Secota, Kelly Grace Thomas, Conney Williams and Vickie Vertiz…
And while it's beautiful that they shared their talent and love for poetry, I also encouraged them - for the first time in our programs history - to share their experiences with us. This is our second time experimenting with the Poems on Demand program so I'm thinking of retiring it for a little while. Don't worry, we have some VERY exciting projects planned for PPLG, and I truly hope that you'll feel inspired to join us for those. And who knows, maybe after reading these reflections, you'll feel encouraged to start your own Poems on Demand project…that would be amazing!
And without further ado I present to you, a little of the book fest amazing-ness, in their own words...
"On a perfectly sunny Saturday afternoon, I sat under a palm tree and did what brings me most joy: talk and write and breathe and laugh poetry. I met seven year olds who stupefied me with their curiosity. I wrote. They wrote. We wrote together. Poetry. Justin who did not believe he is a poet though words course through his veins; Cheyenne who wrote for Cheyenne; Abel who sketched Carrie while I wrote for his handicap. And then I met the youth who sat by my side, and used stationery to construct life and light.
"Poesia para la gente was an amazing event. It took me out into the community and gave me a chance to meet wonderful people. Poetry is powerful and belongs to all of us. Thanks!!!"
"When I arrived, I did not see anyone writing poems, or people approaching to ask for Free Poems. So, I decided to write poems and as people passed by I read them and gave them away. This seemed to make people happy. ..I had a great time. The location was nice and people were friendly. I'd do it again."
"As usual, Saturday made me proud to be a member of the literary community in Los Angeles. Poetry is legitimate, and you could feel its legitimacy in full effect this weekend. I loved watching people as the "Free Poetry/Poema Gratis" signs caught their eye. Some would linger for a moment, while others stepped right up and asked for their complimentary poem. I know the last thing we need is to have more people go on about whether or not poetry is relevant/dying/already dead, but if you were there on Saturday, you know that it is still able to leap long parks in a single bound."
"Offering free poetry to the public with Poesia Para La Gente at Grand Park Book Fest was one of the most rewarding artistic experiences I have had in a long time. As I sat with my pen and index cards, strangers would approach me curious, hesitant and excited to ask if I could write a poem for them. With a smile, nod and quick inquiry for direction, a word or theme they wanted me to touch upon, I would then ask their name and dive in. They sat and watched with such respect, such quiet patience. When I was finished I read each one out loud to its muse. These amazing individuals truly made me realize that each poem is a powerful gift. There were tears, celebrations, accolades, but almost everyone who received a poem said to me, “Thanks I needed to hear that.” It was amazing that total strangers through the power of poetry could touch and heal one another. A huge thanks... for bringing so many great poets together for this amazing festival. "
-Kelly Grace Thomas
"My experience at Grand Park's Downtown Bookfest was enlightening and refreshing. As I soaked in the lovely day, I watched people I was inspired by take the poetic gods by the ears and shout "Hear us! We love literature! We are born to communicate with this amount of passion!" I was stunned by the overwhelming amount of creativity that the poets brought, and their efforts were well received. Many "lovers-of-poetry" requested free poems and had the reaction that maybe we were psychic, how did we know what they were feeling, how could we sum up their birthday so eloquently??? Poetry is a beautiful thing, it connects people. I was so grateful to be a part of something truly beautiful and magical in Los Angeles."
"Bringing poetry to the people in such a tender way...face to face, where words are picked specifically for them. People of all ages and colors, the walks of life that merge into a beautiful pattern of art! That's what was celebrated at the Grand Park Book Fest! The city of Los Angeles came together to celebrate literature! Word! I was fortunate to be a part of Poesia para la Gente, an organization of poets and word masters from the giving and talented Poet, Jessica Ceballos!
I found myself standing in the crossroads of the park -- the somber dirt road trail between the green knoll of the Grand Park stage and the food court -- alongside my husband, Flutist and Poet, Juan Cardenas, and it was obvious to me that there needed to be a little artistic love sprinkled along the trail. Juan and I gave Poetry to the people, on demand, ala carte, in forms of Jazz music and Beat Poetry, to a spoken word flow on demand, (they pick the subject), to the finessed written word specially for those who traveled through. Such a beautiful art -- crafting poetry alongside my love, and the Angel City Poets!
I am so happy to see the Grand Park Book Fest in its 2nd year, and succeeding in bringing Los Aneles closer together in the name of art and soul! #onelove!"
-Jessica Wilson Cardenas
"This event was such an incredible opportunity for a bunch of bleeding heart poets to respond to their potentials as true poet citizens. On this day, we were not just existing as people with the ability to write on the spot, but rather, as uncovered nerve endings with the ability to receive, connect with, reflect, and inspire complete strangers, and vice versa, each party being brave in their own way. The results were documented bursts of immediacy and honesty…gifts for everyone under the late March Los Angeles sun. It was an honor and a delight to watch my fellow poets read their fresh poems to anticipating faces, and watching said anticipating faces realize they had just been not only written about, but READ by a real-live poet. We’re stealth like that."
-Crystal Bird Salas
"The Grand Park Bookfest did something that I really don't think anybody in attendance knew about but me. It restored in me my belief in the written word... my own. I'd like to thank you, Jessica, and everyone who touched me... so much more than I think I touched them... with encouragement inexpressible."
"It was a blessing to see the L.A county community come together for the interest of our YOUTH, the future of all of us, and to have inspired literature and music as well as it was inspired further more in me. I wish Book Fest like this would happen in every park of every community. My most grateful thanks to Jessica Ceballos for inviting me, it was truly beautiful to be beside Jessica Wilson, President of Los Angeles Poet Society, and experiencing the imagination of children flourishing with every word and note."
"I had a most magical afternoon at the down town LA BOOK FEST, meeting so many folks on a Saturday afternoon in celebration of literature! adults children and TEENAGERS! All out to celebrate words and share our stories over free poetry while being sun kissed by the beautiful Los Angeles sun."
"People of all ages were so excited to be handed a custom poem. Before handing over short poems about orange peanuts, elephants, bunnies, gnomes, tulips and the word "amazing." Once I finished each piece, I read it to each person. We had a one-on-one reading, and the exchange was sincere and mutual."
"To offer free poetry at Grand Park took the act of writing out of my hands and subjected it to the whims of random passers-by. And why not? As a form of communication, writing should ultimately be a gift to be shared."
"Saturday was incredible. I wrote personalized work for well over a dozen people ranging from two boys of about seven to a cop on the beat and fathers who were dancing with their infant daughters to the musical programs. I asked them to tell me what they were thinking about at the moment or what was important to them right then and used that as the opening to the poems I wrote. Wherever possible I further personalized them by using their name as the title. Everyone seemed to enjoy what we were sharing and I had a great time meeting and creating for people who, until that moment, were total strangers. Talk about a power workout for the creative faculties! Would do it again ii a second. Thanks again for the opportunity."
"Writing the poem on demand was beautiful. Moment speaking Yes, not letting anything get in the way or what had to be said, letting sun and the patch of grass and the machine I was using (so much like my grandmother's typer) speak the right now downtown Los Angeles song."
"The beauty of Poetry on Demand is that we get to engage with people that we might not talked to on a daily. We had young kids to adults come up to us very and ask very shyly for a poem. As soon as we finished talking and writing we knew each other. That was their poem. They came in to our space. A writers space is sacred, but it was amazing to share that time with them."
"I was honored to provide free poetry at the Bookfest. Whole families sat together on my blanket and colored mandala's while they waited for their poems on their personalized angel bookmark. Each family generously gave their patience and their appreciation. I was amazed at everyone's family connection to each other which was expressed through their individual qualities that the poem's reflected. A wonderful literary afternoon of community and togetherness! I was so happy to apart of it all."
If you'd like to be a part of our future Poesia Para La Gente events…contact me via Facebook, website, or through Avenue 50 Studio….like I said, lots of awesomeness planned for the coming year! And if you were out there with us at Grand Park on Saturday, thank you, for creating these wonderful memories with us!