Los Angeles is one of the most literary and poetic cities anywhere. I make that bold statement after being the city’s poet laureate from 2014 to 2016. During my tenure, I spoke to around 35,000 people in close to 300 venues and events—and millions more in mass media. If we have the most homeless, some of the worst violence, social inequities and injustices, we just haven’t imagined far enough. Poetry, as a beacon in the dark, can help illuminate our way. The poets featured here are the far-seeing and deep-feeling writers and activists I’ve had the privilege to know and work with. Shonda Buchanan, Chiwan Choi and Luivette Resto present poems and videos For The Love Of L.A. that swim in language and imagery, but also in generative ideas. I’m honored to present them here with their vital voices, stories and passions. It’s proof Los Angeles sings among the upturned sidewalks. Where rebirth is everywhere among the ruins, and where being a complete human being is to become a complete artist. Walk with me then, with the Tongva, Tataviam and Chumash, on through to one of the world’s most feverishly alive, and volatile, meeting places. Let’s make this the kind of city that celebrates such soul gatherings by making sure no one is rendered poor, unhoused or unsung. A city I love enough to make it worthy of what it deserves. A city that should fully harbor the better angels in every one of us.
Luis J. Rodriguez is the author of 16 published books, including the bestselling memoir, Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. The sequel, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions & Healing, appeared in 2011. In addition, he has eight books of poetry as well as two children’s books, a novel, a short story collection and two nonfiction books.
Rodriguez has taught creative writing and done poetry readings, talks and healing circles in prisons, juvenile lockups and jails for over 40 years. He is also founding editor of Tia Chucha Press, renowned for poetry collections and anthologies, and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, Philadelphia Enquirer Magazine, American Poetry Review, Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian and Huffington Post, among others. His last poetry book is Borrowed Bones. His most recent book is 2020’s From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys & Imaginings from a Native Xicanx Writer. From 2014 to 2016, he served as Los Angeles’ official Poet Laureate.