Interviewed by Barbara Lieberman
Luis Rodriguez knows that Los Angeles is a “great poetry town.” His tenure as Poet Laureate went from 2014 to 2016. It may have come to an end but for Rodriguez, it’s just the beginning.
Having published a new book of poetry with Curbstone Books/Northwestern University Press called, Borrowed Bones, he is currently working on another book that will be a collection of essays. In addition, he’s been working as a script consultant for the FX TV show Snowfall, co-created by John Singleton. And if that isn’t enough for this busy man, Rodriguez continues to teach creative writing in two maximum-security yards at Lancaster State Prison.
He is also the president of the board of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, and as editor of Tia Chucha Press, there are three new books being promoted including the first literary anthology of Central American writers called The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, edited by Leticia Hernandez Linares, Ruben Martinez, and Hector Tobar.
Leaving his past behind, Rodriguez, with the help of a mentor, recognized his deep hunger for something new and powerful to replace the emptiness and suicide road he was on, “with enough righteous anger, not rage, but anger with eyes, with direction—remember rage is blind—against whatever was keeping me from making a way in this world, be it personal, familial, or social.”
Encouraging others is something genuinely inherent within Rodriguez. When asked what advice he gives to inspire people to find their passion and develop a stick-to-itiveness, he says, “People must first recognize they have genius—an art innate to who they are. Artists are not a special kind of people; we are all a special kind of artist.”
Rodriguez has had a checkered past having been involved in gangs, on drugs, in and out of jails, then drinking for 20 years on top of that, but he was able to find himself via his unique gifts. “I’ve now been clean and sober for 24 years and gang-free, drug-free, and crime-free for close to 45. Any talented person, however, must find the character and discipline to work hard.” Turning his passion of writing into his profession was not easy with Rodriguez claiming to have failed many times, but, he says, “I always get back up.”
“Being Los Angeles Poet Laureate has blessings that keep on blessing,” says Rodriguez.
With his wife Trini, he taught poetry to abandoned girls for a month in Honduras last winter. There is now a Tia Chucha Press book coming out in October with the girls’ writing called “Counting Times Like People Count Stars: Poems by the Girls of Our Little Rose, San Pedro Sula, Honduras,” edited by Spencer Reece.
And Rodriguez continues to speak and read poetry all over the country and the world. This past spring, he was a resident poet for the Unamuno Authors Series in Madrid, Spain. It is non-stop for Rodriguez who states on his website that, “poetry is soul talk, a prophetic act, a powerful means to enlarge one’s presence in the world.” And Rodriguez has made a huge impact with his unending contributions to the world via his linguistic arts.
Edited by Janice Bremec Blum
Barbara Lieberman is a writer and author of five fiction books including the McEwen historical fiction series. She is currently writing her first non-fiction book and will appear in two anthologies that was recently released. Barbara is a New Jersey native transplanted to TribeLA three years ago. Voted one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2015 and 2016, “The Treasure of Ravenwood: A Fairy Tale” by Barbara Lieberman has been voted to the top 40 Best Chapter Books for Young Girls list on Goodreads.