Flor y Canto 2015 by Cesar Coraizaca

Flor y Canto 2016: Poetry Does Matter in Our Times

Last year, San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía revived the Flor y Canto festival, which began its contemporary incarnation in the United States at the University of Southern California in 1973.

A young poet at the time, Murguía gave one of his first big readings at the festival and shared the stage with legends like Alurista and Oscar Zeta Acosta, who treated him with respect and imbued in him a sense of community among poets.

The festival spread to surrounding states and continued for a number of years before dissipating. Murguía has long made efforts to restore the momentum of the festivals, recently organizing them in San Francisco in 2008, 2012, and again last year, when he was able to bring in the 91-year-old Nicaraguan luminary Ernesto Cardenal.

This year the momentum continues, with another two full days of free events, beginning on Friday, May 20, with an opening ceremony and staggered readings occurring throughout what was this year named the 24th Street Latino Cultural District. Saturday, May 21, features a children’s workshop for young poets, and, during brunch at Precita Eyes, the premiere screening of recently acquired archival footage from the 1973 Flor y Canto, which in addition to a young Murguía shows a young U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

Also notable are a translators panel and a writing workshop by Daisy Zamora in Spanish, followed by a poetic mixer at the famous Pop’s Bar. The festival concludes with an all-star reading at the Mission Cultural Center featuring American Book Award winners Cherrie Moraga, Maceo Montoya and Murguía; Lambda Award-winning poet, author and translator Achy Obejas; and special guest Fernando Alarriba, from Mexico.

Murguía said of the festival’s import: “Although it’s a Latino literary festival, we in fact have invited poets from all the different spectrums of the literary community of San Francisco and the Bay Area — not just Latinos — and I think that’s very important.

“It’s also an act of solidarity with our community, and an act of resistance for our community in a cultural and poetic way. To make a point that poetry does matter in our times; that literature does matter; reading does matter; especially as an avenue for our younger generations who are under this intense pressure from so many sides, and I think that the poetry, and involvement in it, is a sign of hope, and a sign that we still have a future in the Mission District; we still have a future in this country.”


Flor y Canto: 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 20. Free. Opening ceremony at the southwest corner of 24th and Mission streets, S.F. Full schedule: florycantosf.org.

This article originally appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Photo by Cesar Coraizaca

Additional listings

Paul Madonna celebrates a limited hand-bound release of his new illustrated novel “Close Enough for the Angels” at the opening reception for his first solo exhibition in five years, featuring framed original drawings and text panels from the book (7 p.m. Thursday, May 19, the Dryansky Gallery, 2120 Union St., S.F. Free).

Radar Productions continues its popular series Hella Close with the theme “Stories of Black Queer Intimacy,” curated and hosted by Arisa White and featuring Joshua Merchant, Jezebel Delilah X, Brontez Purnell and Ramona “Mona” Webb (7 p.m. Friday, May 20, Strut, 470 Castro St., S.F. Free).

Writers With Drinks presents International Goliardos Prize and World Fantasy Award-winning Guy Gavriel Kay, Yangsze Choo (“The Ghost Bride”), David Lau (“Virgil and the Mountain Cat”), Kwan Booth (“Black Futurists Speak: An Anthology of New Black Writing”) and Ariel Waldman (“What’s It Like in Space? Stories From Astronauts Who’ve Been There”) (7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21, the Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., S.F. $5-$20).

Literary Death Match returns for its 61st S.F. show, featuring Janis Cooke Newman (“A Master Plan for Rescue”), Lambda Literary Fellow Baruch Porras-Hernandez, Na’amen Tilahun (“The Root”), and Sarah Ladipo Manyika (“Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun”) (7:15 p.m. Saturday, May 21, Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St., S.F. $7-$10). 

City Lights presents a reading featuring old-school and new-school Bay Area poets, both of whom they recently published: Joanne Kyger (“On Time”) and Julien Poirier (“Out of Print”) (1 p.m. Sunday, May 22, Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Free).