By Brian Dunlap
The atmosphere at the Virgil was electric. Beats from music spun by DJs filled the room with powerful comradery. L.A. writers filled the room in support of a member of the literary community from Fresno, poet Sara Borjas. The night emanated a bit of hip hop and club.
Poet and journalist Mike Sonksen showed his support. Poets and hosts of the Pomona open mic Obsidian Tongues, Ceaser Avelar and William Gonzalez greeted me as I entered. The room at the Virgil was packed and the lights dimmed for ambiance. We stopped Sara as she walks by and we say hello, Sara thanking us for our support.
Then the night kicks off. Fresno State English Professor and fiction writer Randa Jarrar and L.A. native and poet Bridgette Bianca stepped to the mic, the hosts. Walk-up music played them on stage like baseball players coming to bat. They were ready to introduce the powerful female writers who were reading on this Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, setting up Sara and her necessary words.
New Orleans native and poet Jessica Gallion, prose writer Amanda Fletcher, Lady Narrator and other women readers teased the audience with their portrayals of women staying strong in the face of men who want to use them, tear them down, in relationships and otherwise, all walking to the mike with their own hand-picked walk-up music.
Then Jeff Eyres graced the mic with his long hair and scruffy goatee. His reading was filled with humor about “The Roach Motel,” the need to kill his invasive roaches.
This was an evening assembled by L.A. native, novelist and lawyer Natashia Deón called Release Series: Origins, a reading series that focuses on the book release of one artist while celebrating the entire writing community in L.A. The Release Series brings both mentorship and support.
The community came out to support.
When Sara took the mic to read, the whole room fell silent. An important necessity to hear her words about Fresno, about being a Pocha, about who her Mexican American family is. She spoke about generational trauma, about her Fresno. Her experience. She read three poems including “Pocha Café” that reads in part:
Even we think all Mexicans look alike, or that all Latinos
are Mexican, and that’s why our Salvadorian
and Boricua homies talk shit, but that’s what people do
when they love you, so fuck it! If you are a downright
cultural traitor, come on in!
The audience responded with snaps and verbal affirmations when they connected and saw their experiences reflected back to them, sometimes comically, Pocha style.
Then the night was over.