You don’t usually associate light blue porcelain toilets, pale yellow refrigerators, taco carts and five-foot cornstalks with urban streets, unless you live in Highland Park or Northwest Los Angeles.
As viewers strolled into the University of La Verne’s Cabaret Theatre on April 14, Lisa Marie Sandoval, an artist in residence for the 14th district in Los Angeles, illustrated the lives of maids, janitors and gang members of her hometown neighborhood with modern dance and raw poetry.
The words seeped into the souls of attentive watchers.
“I hope that my poetry will touch you, inspire you and make you think,” Sandoval said.
She portrayed and honored the invisible people of the society that most people brush off with a glance during their daily routine, people like the teenage taco cart worker that is separated from the world by a glass window and a maid that washes the clothes that she cannot wear and prepares the food that she could never eat.
The event was sponsored by the Creative Writing Program in celebration of National Poetry Month.
Students also passionately shared poetry during the open mic session preceding Sandoval’s appearance.
One of the participants at the mic was Emily Romo, a freshman English major and biology minor. She boldly stepped onto the stage and recited Anne Sexton’s “The Poet of Ignorance” while incorporating her images and ideals into the text.
“The images that she creates are really abstract and new,” Romo said, “as in the lines: ‘perhaps the stars are little paper cutups made by some giant scissors.’”
As the evening progressed, Sandoval unveiled the humanity behind the Highland Park, which is usually referred to as the ‘armpit’ of Los Angeles. Through the performance the audience and performers developed a tenacious bond with one another.
“Poetry is my form of contemporary art,” Sandoval said.
Several years ago Sandoval settled in Highland Park for the summer with a couple of friends, but the ambience of the city and the open hearts of the neighbors urged her to continue her stay.
Functioning as a master poet, Sandoval works with the youth in Highland Park and Northwest L.A. to give teens an emotional outlet that is different from those that they are accustomed to, such as, fights, territorial murals and drugs.
Poetry has served as an emotional outlet and a source of pleasure for many.
“I wrote poetry in lieu of journal writing to find my place in the world,” said Stephen Westbrook, associate professor of English.
Without rhythm and closed forms Westbrook has tailored a form of poetry to his own taste.
As a teen Westbrook often turned to poetry to express his feelings and to escape the confusion that the first Iraq war brought into the society.
Poetry has become a vital form of expression in society.
“I like the ability to create these images that represent abstract thoughts and ideas,” Romo said.
Yelena Ovcharenko can be reached at email@example.com.