Gangs Writers and Writing

Homeboy Poets and the Healing Power of Words


If in midst of our collective budget horrors—
and this weird season of soon-to-be every-other-week city services furloughs, and heaven knows what else (Like the fact that a parolee pulled a gun when he shoplifted a 12-pack of socks at a So Cal Ralphs supermarket yesterday. I’m sorry, but that’s just not a good sign.)—if you need something that will simply cheer you up, watch these Daily Bruin TV videos that feature three of the Homeboy Industries poets.

The videos contain interviews with each poet, interspersed with clips of the poets performing their work at a Monday afternoon performance at UCLA for a crowd of wildly enthusiastic students and faculty.

The event was, in part, to introduce the newly published Homeboy Review, an unusual literary magazine that was invented to serve as “…a voice for the poets and writers of Homeboy Industries, as well as a forum to publish both under-represented and established writers from around the globe.”

Also featured in the videos is Homeboy Press director and gifted novelist, my pal Leslie Schwartz, plus my other brilliant pal, UCLA prof, and gang violence reduction expert, Dr. Jorja Leap—both of whom give a little back story on the world that the homeboy poets came from—you know, when they were still only homeboys, and not yet poets.


The poets themselves—Hector Verdugo, Agustin Lizama and Robert Juarez—are all three men who have made huge changes in their lives, without which the expression of their talent would not have been possible. But they each also credit the experience of writing as part of the process of healing the wounds of the past in order to become the kind of men who could grab for the decent future they now hold in their hands.

It should be noted that both Hector and Agustin—Tin-Tin—served as not just contributors for the Homeboy Review, but along with Leslie and another talented Homeboy poet, Maynor Aguirre, as its editors.

Although the videos don’t come up in chronological order,
I recommend clicking on Part 1, and listening to that first. All three are worth the time, I promise.


NOTE: The official publication party for the Homeboy Review—open to the public— is on Thursday, June 11, at 7 p.m., at the Homegirl Cafe.

The Homeboy Poets plus writers Luis Rodriguez, Kerry Madden,
and Father Greg Boyle, will all be reading. I’ll be at Bennington College that night, so sadly I won’t be in the audience cheering. So if you go (you will go, won’t you?) take some photos with your cell phone and email me the best ones, okay? Alrighty then.
ONE MORE THING: While we’re on this subject of interesting videos, take a look at this just-released multimedia project by award-winning photographer Joseph Rodriguez, and supported by IJJ’s Justice and Journalism Fund. It chronicles the experiences of a woman parolee named Tracy as she attempts to remake her life, stay out of prison and “find hope.
Photos by Marcia Berris


  • Actually, no. I wrote poetry in algebra class because my teacher, Mr. Coffee was a droner and I was bored out of my mind. Upon reflection, however, all droning aside, I don’t think the poetry-writing particularly helped me with algebra at all. (Although it did help me with poetry.)

    So, no, if one is in accounting, probably better to focus on accounting. But that’s only one woman’s opinion.

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