In this 65-minute interview, writer Luis Rodriguez discusses his nine lives, going from being a barely pubescent gang member in East LA and the San Gabriel Valley, to being shot at, doped up and finding redemption through the arts, literature and his own writing. After all this, he sets an example to others facing the same temptations and challenges that he faced.
Our discussion touches on how the arts saved his life and the cultural starvation facing many inner city communities (min. 2), the influence of black awareness on his thinking (min. 7), whether politicians really understand urban challenges (min. 18), decriminalisation (min. 24), and his prison experience (in a cell next to Charles Manson, min. 24).
We then continue with how Luis became interested in writing and his own approach (min. 34), including his reading of two poems (about his mother and a sonnet about our country) from his 2016 poetry book Borrowed Bones (min. 40). He then recounts receiving the title of Poet Laureate at the Central Library in Downtown LA, which served as a refuge during his teen-age years. Luis closes with the two things that he would have told himself as a teen-ager with the benefit of 45 more years of experience (min. 56).
From the initial question of whether he is surprised to be alive, Luis shows honesty, humility and insight, with a touch of humor.
Next up - UC Berkeley’s Michael Dear on why walls don’t work.
Feed your soul. Keep listening.