Murguia Poet Laureate

Poetry and Art Are Inseparable from Politics: Alejandro Murguía, San Francisco Poet Laureate

Written by Alicia Monique Díaz-Infante

What inspires or motivates you as an activist and a writer?

Life mostly—meaning what goes on around me, what goes on in my neighborhood.

Who do you write for?

I don’t have a specific person, but I would hope that my work would appeal to everyone.  But also I write to give voice to my community, and those without a voice.

Can you describe how you have seen your writing merge with your activism?

In my world, poetry and art are inseparable from politics, and politics are inseparable from art and poetry.  There is no division.

How has San Francisco influenced you?

In general it is a city very supportive of artists and poets and creativity, but in particular the Mission District, its history and its Latino community, have been a great source of material and inspiration for me.

You were quoted saying that you are nostalgic for the future.  What do you mean by that?  

That the best is yet to come, both personally and hopefully, for the Latino community and all oppressed people of the world.

What are your dreams and visions for the future?  

A better place for all of us, where education is free and exciting, prisons outlawed, and poetry mandatory—for police and politicians.

If anything, what stands in the way of this future and what will be essential in order to achieve it?

The destruction of Pacha Mama [Mother Earth] and a reevaluation of the role of humans in nature.

What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the Latino community?  

One of our strengths has always been our sense of community, as well as our artistic and creative sense—we are a people used to enduring whatever comes.

What do you think these dynamics mean in terms of the future?

Only we can save ourselves and our community, so I am all for those elements and activities—like poetry readings and festivals—that strengthen our community.

Hearing that you put your college education on hold because of your activism, I wonder how do you feel about the current education system in general and/or considering the Latino community?

We have been cut out for the most part from the educational system—you can tell just by how few Latina/o professors you’ll find on any campus.  

If any, what changes do you think are needed?

Besides a complete funding of public education, we need to instill in ourselves, our families and our community a standard that each and every one of us—no matter age, will become the best educated person we can be so that our entire community becomes not just the healthiest but also the most creative and best educated of all.

What piece of advice would you offer to writers of any skill level?  

From those who struggle to write and hate it, to those who are excellent and enjoy it: read.  Read a lot and read widely.  You cannot be a writer without first being a reader.  And hang out in bookstores, attend readings and become part of, and help form, the literary scene in your community.