Alejandro Murguía, a poet who was at the forefront of the Nicaraguan revolution movements that swept the Mission more than 40 years ago, is San Francisco’s new poet laureate, Mayor Ed Lee announced last night. We sat down with him for a short interview, and he was gracious enough to recite a poem for us, captured in the video above.
ML: Congratulations! How do you feel?
AM: I feel good. I was nominated several months ago, and the mayor made a selection from several different names. One of the first things I thought when I found out was, “Is there free parking with it?” [Laughs]
ML: That would be a great prize! What exactly does the title mean?
AM: I will deliver an inaugural address, have a reading during Litquake and host youth readings. But what I want to do is start an international floricanto festival with our sister city in Barcelona, Spain.
ML: What’s a floricanto festival?
AM: Floricanto is the ancient Mesoamerican metaphor for poetry. I’ll also be promoting poetry, maybe having poetry workshops in the halls of the fire or police departments.
ML: Why there?
AM: It’s a great way for the community to establish understanding, to ease tensions in the city. I also want to reach out to young people of the barrios to halt the violence that so regulargly disrupts our communities. Of course, I can’t do this alone. I’d have to get more artists to participate.
ML: What are your immediate plans?
AM: I’ll be spending the next few days making appearances at the San Francisco International Poetry Festival. It’s happening now!
If you’d like to read some of Murguía’s work, pick up his collection of poems titled “Native Tongue,” which won him the nomination for poet laureate and also features the poem “16th and Valencia.”