Lunas on the Road

by  Karineh Mahdessian and Sophia Rivera
(intro by Ramona Pilar)

Las Lunas Locas is a Los Angeles-based poetry collective who aims to empower women through their different identities and cultures. They have a writing circle that has been meeting on Mondays for the past few years to “create a safe space for a community of self-identifying womyn to write, right and rite.” They also host/present/produce and organize a plethora of events and writing workshops in Los Angeles.

This is an amazing group of literary artisans who are inspiring in their level of energy commitment to community, and dedication to forging their own path (literally as you’ll see below) whether or not the mainstream takes notice.

Earlier this year, a group of about 30 of the Lunas embarked on a four city reading tour that began on a whim. Initially an invitation for poets to read at a bookstore San Francisco ballooned into “a wonderful, serendipitous event that grew to be too big to be contained,” according to Karineh Mahdessian, one of the co-facilitators of the Monday meetups  and Lunas organizational juggernaut who helped to make the reading tour materialize. I followed their journey via social media and was blown away all that they were able to accomplish with the power of The Ask and a strong community.

In the tradition of a road journal, Karineh writes about that journey and what it took to take a group of about 30 women to Northern California for a reading tour.

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Las Lunas Locas, a womyn’s writing group from Los Angeles, formed into existence in July of 2014 and has met every Monday night at Here and Now in El Sereno. For the past two years, we have participated in various community poetry readings.

In November of 2015, five of the Lunas had the opportunity to read with the Poet Laureates of Los Angeles and San Francisco at Avenue 50 Studios in Highland Park.

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Alejandro Murguia, poet laureate of San Francisco, fell in love with the Lunas and thus invited us to read at Alley Cat Books in San Francisco. What was initially meant to be a single reading turned into a four-day, multi-city, tour-de-force.

The Lunas were excited and thrilled for a road trip. The Alley Cat could only accommodate six Lunas, which meant nineteen Lunas needed to find other homes to read their work. We used social media and the power of the collective to reach out to other venues and soon found ourselves committed to four distinctly unique readings in San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, and Fresno.

And then the hard work began. How would we finance this feat? Where would we stay? Who would read where? And how would we get up there? After three months of fundraising which included typing poems-on-demand at our favorite coffee shop, Holy Grounds Coffee & Tea in El Sereno, along with amazingly generous friends who supported our efforts on-line, we had the resources to make it happen. We found lodging in a gorgeous house in the hills of Oakland and that became our home base.

On Thursday, March 10, 2016, the first day of the tour, four cars met at Here and Now, and we caravanned to San Francisco. Along the sunny I-5, we saw the blooming of poppy fields; orange and yellow flowers invited us to enjoy the often bleak freeway roadside. We arrived and the rainstorms greeted us into the Mission District. Although the clouds were looming, Lunas, nevertheless, could not contain their excitement. We had our first reading at Alley Cat Books for the 3rd anniversary of the Voz Sin Tinta Reading Series. Wine and cupcakes, selfie-sticks and plenty of cheers warmed our spirits.

Las Lunas Locas at Voz sin Tinta (L-R: Katie J. Smyser, Michelle Garcia Gutiérrez, Cynthia Guardado, Melanie Gonzalez, Iris de Anda, and Emily Fernandez)

Las Lunas Locas at Voz sin Tinta (L-R: Katie J. Smyser, Michelle Garcia Gutiérrez, Cynthia Guardado, Melanie Gonzalez, Iris de Anda, and Emily Fernandez)

After an incredible reading in San Francisco, Lunas fought through Friday afternoon traffic to arrive at the Capitol. Prior to our reading, seven Lunas met at Legacy Tattoo, in which we all marked our bodies to commemorate the adventure as well as what the writing circle means to us, both individually and collectively. Appropriately so, we each tattooed the crescent moon onto our skin and scored the original stencil for other Lunas who might be motivated to demonstrate their loyalty, should they ever decide to do so. We arrived at the reading in Sacramento bloodied and bandaged and read our hearts out at the Poetry Center hosted by Nancy Gonzalez.

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Saturday morning, before preparing for the reading at Mills College, Lunas circled up and wrote for our traditional thirteen minutes. This is what we do, no matter where we are. We shared. We laughed. We cried. We were home—again. Our reading at Mills College, hosted by Mujeres Unidas, was powerful–a round-robin in which Lunas from the Bay Area met Lunas from Los Angeles. We howled in the halls. Mills will never be the same again.

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On Sunday, our tour concluded in Fresno at Arte Américas. Hosted by our very own Luna, Cynthia Guardado, the Lunas read alongside several amazing Fresno poets, including Poet Laureate of Fresno Lee Herrick, and local poets Marisol Baca and Ria Williams. When the reading ended, we circled up again and howled. We hugged. We laughed. We took many photos. We left feeling full. We had accomplished what we had set out to do.

Photo credit: Sylvia Chavez

Photo credit: Sylvia Chavez

The Bay Area fell in love with the Lunas and we readily responded with open arms and disarming smiles. This road trip was the impetus to transform Lunas into fierce warriors by sharing their words and passion outside of our intimate circle. This tour was unforgettable and nothing short of magic. Las Lunas Locas cannot wait to experience what the Southwest tour in the fall of 2017 will bring. Be on the look-out. Lunas are coming, one poem at a time.

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Las Lunas Locas meets weekly on Mondays at Here and Now in El Sereno. They will be featured at the NoHo Lit Crawl on Wednesdsay, October 26, 2016, and will have having a release party for their first Anthology on December 3, 2016. They are currently planning a 10-city tour for September 2017.

Karineh Mahdessian is a social worker and is interested in people and art. She hosts La Palabra and co-facilitates Las Lunas Locas. She eats tacos. She plays chess. She gives hugs. She writes. She loves. She rights. She eats. She rites. She breathes.

Sophia Rivera is a Chicana writer from Northwest Pasadena. A proud Luna Loca, she is also the co-facilitator of Las Lunas Locas. Sophia believes in the sacred power of telling stories, Selenas Forevers, that lunas locas are magic, and poetry saves lives.

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One thought on “Lunas on the Road

  1. Toni Ann says:

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing this journey! Las Lunas Locas are inspiring. Congratulations on the successful tour. I wish you all many many more successes!

    Like

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