by Brian Dunlap
Billy Burgos has an equal love for both poetry and drawing. A quick look at his Facebook page can tell anyone that. There are pictures of his black and white pen and ink portrait drawings of friends and fellow L.A. poets alongside posts of newly written poems.
More than an immigrant from Belize—he moved to L.A. at age 8—Burgos published his first book of poems Eulogy to an Unknown Tree in 2012 from L.A. based Writ Large Press. It collects 71 of his poems, many that capture his Los Angeles, many referencing the time his family was laying down their roots in Los Ángeles. Burgos says in a Rumpus essay that his writing room is “the city of Los Ángeles and its colorful people that I meet on a daily basis.” A good example of Burgos’ unique capturing of L.A. is the poem “Stardust:”
The 157 bus moves through
47th street like a graffiti capsule.
Men with unbuttoned work shirts
hover over old women with grocery bags
everyone, zombie-eyed and distant.
However, Burgos is still more than an accomplished poet and artist. He is the guy in the L.A. literary community who rides his bike everywhere, from his home in the Leimert Park neighborhood. It’s what relaxes him and what his daughter found embarrassing when she got into high school. Too cool to ride with him anymore.
But, if you pick up a copy of fellow Angeleño poet V. Kali’s poetry collection Hymn you’ll see the cover is a nicely detailed portrait of her sketched by one Billy Burgos.