Take the Red Line: Poesia para la gente

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Poesia para la gente

Except for Billy Burgos, I’ve never heard or read the work of any of the poets who will be taking part in “Poesia Para La Gente” this coming Sunday. I did hear Burgos read at Beyond Baroque a couple of years ago, though, and enjoyed it very much. He is definitely one of the “young” poets whose work has already significantly gone past the stage of “promise” and “potential” and begun contributing to the conversation about contemporary poetics.

The posting for “Poesia Para La Gente” has the subtitle, “Subway Edition,” which made me wonder if there is another edition or version of this project; indeed, a quick use of search engines brought up a poster for an event just last month, “Poetry under the Freeway,” which featured Iris De Anda, Rebecca Gonzales, Abel Salas, Matt Sedillo and Julio the Conga Poet at the Cypress Park Community Job Center. Jessica Ceballos appears to be the main organizer of these events.

It is heartening to see public transportation continuing to be used as a mobile venue for cultural work. One of the ways that poets have availed themselves of this platform is to have advertising-sized placards of poems on buses. I believe George Evans once set up such a program in San Francisco, and certainly New York has had these kinds of displays over the years. Smaller cities shouldn’t be overlooked as potential outlets, however. Santa Monica, for instance, in the late 1980s, sponsored a poetry-on-the-buses program. Some of the poets who were featured in a series of poetry placards on buses in 1988 included Stephen Rodefer, Eloise Klein Healy, Charles Bernstein, Ruben Martinez, Hugh Seidman, Sesshu Foster, Terry Wolverton, and me.

I suppose that one could argue that having posters of poems on a bus or a subway car is not necessary anymore. After all, can’t people just use their hand-held devices to dig up a poem to read? First of all, there is an assumption here about capital (the means by which these devices can be acquired and their functions made use of) and culture that seems a little too blithe. Internet access on a bus or subway car is not necessarily free, at least the last time I checked. I don’t know about other cities, but I remember a survey a few years ago noted that the riders of L.A.’s bus system were in the bottom five percent of the economic hierarchy. Furthermore, is there not something to be said for reading something on the “big screen” of a placard and experiencing a gaze at language that broadens one’s peripheral vision to include those who are riding the bus with you, perhaps a few of whom are also reading the poem at the same time. I hope that someone steps forward and helps Jessica Ceballos expand the reach of her events to include at least the temporary posting of the work being read at the events.

Here are the details for the “Subway Edition” of “Poesia Para La Gente”:

Poesia Para La Gente: Subway Edition

Poetry Reading

June 30, 2013

12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

A one-time event on a Sunday afternoon, to stimulate and encourage artistic expression throughout the Los Angeles area…via the metro lines. $5 for all day metro pass. Meeting at the RED LINE platform LA Union Station. FEATURING: Billy Burgos, Yago Cura, Sean Hill, Karineh Mahdessian, Ryan Nance, Conney Williams. Hosted by Jessica Ceballos. w/ OPEN MIC & musical accompaniment FOLLOW US LIVE – or hop on the nearest train by finding out where we’ll be – by using the hashtag -> #PPLG. We’ll be live tweeting/facebooking beginning at 11:30 AM #PPLG


LA Metro Rail System

Red Line Platform

800 N Alameda St

Los Angeles, CA


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