First of all, La Pena is a really amazing space. They have a beautiful mural on the outside that I spent a lot of time just staring at after getting my tickets. Then there is a cafe attached to the space, where one can get a drink and a snack while waiting for the doors to open, which I really enjoyed being able to do.
Yosimar Reyes, a poet from San Jose, introduced the evening and each performer. I really enjoyed his smart and funny words before and between performers, and the couple poems of his own that he read as well. His website seems to be down but his MySpace page, here: http://www.myspace.com/yosimarreyes has some good info / sound bits.
TruBloo was the first performer - her website is also under construction but Facebook page is a good resource: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Real-Tru-Bloo/112502162135800?v=info I really enjoyed her performance - it was interesting to think of it in terms of this class because one's mind does not automatically categorize hip-hop as poetry, but that is really what she was doing - poetry with a beat behind it. Come to think of it, so was Amiri Baraka when he had the band behind him, drums, saxophone, etc at his reading. poetry with a beat behind it. So I guess the mainstream view of what is/isn't poetry is still a little limited, because TruBloo probably wouldn't be categorized as a poet, but I don't see why. A quote from her Facebook:
"In 2010, Tru Bloo’s music addresses issues of class, race, culture, gender and sexuality with a message of self-empowerment and self-realization."
Isn't that what poetry does too? And yes music and poetry are still different things, but I think TruBloo's music could be written on a page in the shape of a poem and it would work really well. So there is some overlap. There's a video on the Facebook page, as well as audio on her MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/trubloo5
Another quote, this one from her MySpace:
"Tru Bloo’s music often addresses what it means to be a woman, person of color, immigrant, poor person and/or queer person with a message of self-empowerment and self-realization."
This is what I found poetic and really compelling about Trubloo's music. It's not mainstream hip-hop, that sometimes does not carry much meaning and rarely addresses these issues, and it's really refreshing to hear good music that you could dance to but also makes you think as well - I mean really, wouldn't it be ideal if all music made us think (I don't know how much I believe in that statement though, sometimes we all need a song or two to just be silly and dance to, but I guess what I'm saying is I'd like to be rid of music that falls under the umbrella of "art (music) for art's (music's) sake" and hear more music that actually makes people think and give a damn).
Liza Garza was the next performer, and she really got into my head. Her work is also musical poetry and she read one or two poems that were just poems, sans music, as well. Or spoken poems with a beat behind them but not sung. She had a calm intensity about her that was so overwhelmingly amazing, and she radiated a kind of love toward everyone in the room from the stage. I almost feel like I can't say anything about her, because she got so underneath my skin in a way that one rarely experiences with such amazing poetry. I want to direct everyone to every link I can find on her, but here is her MySpace page with audio (listen to "My Everything" which she read at the event) and her official website (the song that plays when you open the website was another piece she performed at the La Pena event, and invited the audience to participate in too): http://www.myspace.com/lizagarza and http://lizagarza.com/
I hope my inability to really talk about her work isn't seen as a cop-out, because she brought me to tears and I would go on about her for ages if I could - but she's literally stunned me into silence and I'm still trying to find the words. She has also been on Def Poetry and she has great video from that ("My Everything", again) as well as others on her youtube page http://www.youtube.com/user/bloombeautiful#p/u/5/PL56rneIzuA
(She was not this intense - she brought herself to tears! - at the 11/14 event but she still made us all feel it to the core).