REVIEW: San Diego poets unite to share their work

 CSUSM Arts & Lectures series hosted local poets to share their work.

Photo credit to the CSUSM Arts & Lectures website

CSUSM Arts & Lectures series hosted local poets to share their work.

Sonya Vargas, Staff Writer

CSUSM held a virtual spoken word event, “Poets’ History of San Diego Spoken Word,” hosted by CSUSM’s own professor of ethnic studies Jason Perez, on April 8. 

Perez was joined by poet and CSUSM professor of sociology Lori Walkington and nationally-acclaimed and award-winning poets Anthony Blacksher and Karla Cordero for an evening of awe-inspiring pieces. Their work depicts their own personal journeys through spoken word, academics and the cultural remembrance of living and growing in San Diego as their muse. 

The event was formed as a way of “insighting what we hope to be an extended and expanded conversation of poetry, spoken word, social justice, community building and activism in the area,” said Perez. He reflected on the power of spoken word as a means of finding each other, showing up for one another through language in a shared space of mutual and reciprocated regard. 

Perez introduced Walkington first. In her work, she uses spoken word as a bridge of community knowledge and ongoing research that revolves around open mic events as settings where transformative community healing is taking place. 

Walkington described her first piece, “The Artist,” as fully, completely and emotionally raw. Her thesis was supported as she shared poems that navigated the story of a woman going through emotions of domestic turmoil in love, while also maneuvering through life and womanhood. 

Walkington shared that she shows up for Black women who stand in the shadow and hold on their shoulders the men who are usually at the center of our conversation regarding racism and power in our country. The postscript to her first piece was “20 for 20,” conveying this notion of women being behind the scenes and facing their own struggles, which is seldom recognized as a cause for concern. 

Perez, a notable writer, performer, teacher and scholar, took the virtual stage next. 

Perez shared his poetic landscape of two neighborhoods (City Heights and Mira Mesa) which he wishes to pay homage to in his first piece “I Ask About What Falls Away.” His words can bring a homely familiarity to any San Diegan who has frequented the different regions and communities of the county and has gotten a taste of the culture that lies in San Diego’s neighborhoods. 

Blacksher, an award-winning poet, professor and vinyl record collector then joined the chat and mentioned the spoken word events he would likely be attending throughout the week had circumstances been that of the pre-pandemic era. 

Blacksher, who is also a professor at San Bernardino Valley Community College, chose a piece that addresses the topic of Proposition 15, which would have put large sums of money into community colleges. A Board Member of the institution he teaches at made public that she would be voting against Prop 15, revealing that she believed that the money would be better placed in business and not in schools such as the one that she serves. 

Like most poets and hip hop artists would do, he wrote a poem about it. With great candor and passion, he shared his words to live on, even after the election, letting others know that their actions are not forgotten and they will be spoken about. 

Cordero was the last poet who graced the audience with her work. Cordero is a descendant of the Chichimeca people of Northern Mexico and is a Chicano poet, artivist and educator at San Diego State University, San Diego City College and Mira Costa, who was raised in the borderlands of Calexico, CA. 

The poet acknowledged that since the pandemic she had been spending more time speaking to technology than to her own family. This led her to ponder the idea of the afterlife and what the calling is as poets when contemplating the idea of death. 

The last line of her poem reads, “I promise you we will rise, we will turn the pages of books written by faces of those who sacrificed their sharp mouths to keep us here. So go ahead, and turn the page and always witness a resurrection.” 

Cordero paid tribute to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in her second piece, which reflects a young Chicana who shapeshifts to the form of a turtle to ensure her survival in a world which tries to label her. 

The four poets came together in spoken word and academia and have found each other in these realms, aiming to decolonize the classroom and pay homage to their roots amongst the San Diego community.

Sonya Vargas is a staff writer for The Cougar Chronicle. She is currently in her final semester of her undergraduate as a social science major with a minor in psychology. She aims to serve underprivileged youth and families in the future and continue writing. In her spare time, she enjoys being in nature, getting creative and enjoying the simple things.