Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poets on the Loose a la L.A.: The Street Poets

Southern Oregon has our particular brand on "Poets on the Loose," but the Street Poets in L.A. bring poetry to a whole new level. 

The Street Poets lead writing workshops and poetry performances for youth and young adults all around Los Angeles County. They work not only with youth in elementary, middle, and high schools, but also in juvenile detention centers and on Apache and Navajo reservations. One component of the organization, Street Poets United, is a "violence prevention-themed poetry performance group, composed of our formerly incarcerated workshop alumni and staff, [that] performs at schools, youth justice & peace conferences and juvenile detention facilities."

It's really quite difficult to explain the power of these poets. Here is an excerpt of a poem by Chris Henrikson, taken from their website:

Last week I strip-searched the streets
For a soldier poet
Struggling to make life rhyme with hard time
I found him on page three
Right next to me
Scratching his way back to the beginning
With nothing but a pencil for protection
In this mad house of correction
We all call body

Now the Street Poets, who have been doing this work since the late 90s, are asking for some larger community support to purchase a van. Many of the youth who attend their workshops and events have no access to transportation and must take public transit for hours. In some cases, youth "must pass through different gang neighborhoods on the way to [their] workshops, waiting at bus stops where a friend or brother may have been shot."

So the Street Poets are raising $40,000 by July 15 to buy a van (and the van will be equipped with recording technology for traveling broadcasts). They are about $7,000 away from their goal. Can you help? Even $8 helps and there are gifts in exchange for your tax-deductible donations. To make a donation, or for more information, click here.

Long live Poets on the Loose!