In response to this crucial time for humanity and justice, poets from over 160 countries came together to hold local poetry events on Feb. 29, called “Leap Forward.” This unique day occurring only every 4 years reverberated with the poetic word. It was thrilling to be part of it.
In San Francisco, people congregated to hear poetry for a better world in three locations throughout the day, including in the heart of the barrio: The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. The Leap Forward event also honored the recently passed cultural activists, Piri Thomas and Daniel del Solar.
Jason Wallach, of the Mission Cultural Center read the World Poetry Movement Call and welcomed the audience. Executive Director Jennie Rodriquez presented a framed silkscreen portrait of Piri by Adrian Arias and the Mission Grafica staff to his widow, Suzie Dodd Thomas, and read a Pedro Pietri poem that was a favorite Piri’s.
Jack Hirschman, San Francisco poet laureate and U.S. representative to the World Poetry Movement, headquartered in Medellín Colombia, opened the poetry presentations with a powerful, explosive poem against the filthy broken system we live under, with strong x-rated language.
Mary Rudge delivered an embracing blessing, establishing the spiritual space with her poem “Illuminations.” Adrian Arias incorporated two poems into a performance art, where he made a delicious seven minute ceviche. One poem was translated by an off-stage echo and explored sounds. Devorah Major read a strongly complex, beautiful poem about defining peace from an impossible dream to an achievable reality while fluidly remaining a hope.
Teen poet, Anais Azul announced a walkout at Berkeley High against education cuts and then performed her poems with confidence and polish—one in English, and the other in Spanish that included singing. Jorge Argueta also read in two languages, using his own translation in a topical, angry and compassionate poem for the 400 Honduran prisoners who burned in a fire just two weeks ago. Mamacoatl sliding from English to Spanish blasted the makers of the Gregorian calendars and destroyers of the earth-based Indigenous sense of time with their invention of the Leap Year. Avotcja’s bilingual poem skillfully glided her rhythmic words in a belly-to-belly tango, going in and out of the two languages in the same poem. Singer Musa del Sol, on tour from El Salvador, added her dramatic songs.
I, Nina Serrano, closed the evening with a poem to Daniel del Solar, graciously accompanied by Camilo Landau on tres and Charlie Gruke on sax.