I am sitting a few feet away from a fully-constructed, woven paper hut in a comfy leather chair. Letters from the incarcerated are strewn above my head and some of them are beautifully illustrated, because when you’re in the cut you got time to do that type of thing. My brother gestures to the installation with his thumb, “That would’ve taken a long time.” The pieces are part of an art show called Passage & Place, and I cannot do it justice here. Check out the work.

That’s how Voz Sin Tinta works. You show up at Alley Cat Books; and if you are broke, you rummage through their bargain books (see the copy of Please Kill Me currently sitting in my backpack); and if you aren’t broke, you dip into their well-curated and eclectic book sections. True artists are diggers.

Then you grab a chair in the back of the store. Hosted every second Thursday of the month by Jose Hector Cadena and Marguerite Eva Muñoz, Voz Sin Tinta gathers a unique collection of readers. There is a bridging of communities in the readings that Voz Sin Tinta presents. Sponsored by San Francisco poet laureate Alejandro Murguía and Alley Cat Books, the readings often celebrate a theme. This month celebrated SF Pride Month.

click to watch the Apr 14 Voz Sin Tinta

Lito Sandoval by Jose Hector Cadena. Click to watch the April ’14 Voz Sin Tinta

Lito Sandoval opened the reading with an excerpt from his short story, “I Love You Alto.” The story breaks your mind when you really start trying to conceive how a dyslexic deaf man communicates with his arthritically crippled (inhibiting sign language) lover.

Tara Rose read complex love poems filled with therapists, pills, beer, and Allen Ginsberg’s lover. Brilliant lines poured at a relentless pace. I thought of a mother’s love.

Denise Benavides dedicated her reading to one of her mentors in attendance. Obviously, the gentleman had been inspiring good work, because she pulled a heartfelt reading that spanned from Barbie Dolls to trailer parks.

Marvin K. White is exactly what you expect in a divinity student: a gay black man with a string of well-deserved poetry accolades. His reading left the audience rolling on the floor with a series of hilarious Facebook status updates, and an inspired use of hashtags in a literary context.

Denise Benavides by Jose Hector Cadena. Click to read a profile/review of Voz Sin Tinta.

Denise Benavides by Jose Hector Cadena. Click to read a profile/review of Voz Sin Tinta.

The night’s final guest reader Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano opened his series of poems on love and sex with an epigraph by Madonna. To cap an already powerful reading series, Lorenzo invited Marvin to join him as they read a duet in which Lorenzo complemented Marvin’s “Making Black History” with his own “Making Chicano History.”

The night closed out with a brief open mic reading as is the tradition of Voz Sin Tinta, a celebration of voices.

 IMG_20140118_173902Christopher Patrick Steffen is a bartender in San Francisco. He wrote the short story collection Thank You for Supporting Our Dreams and the novel The End of All Things Planned For.