SRJC hosts native and diaspora poetry reading


Courtesy Julian Talamantez Brolaski

Native poet Julian Talamantez Brolaski, one of three guest speakers at SRJC’s April 16 poetry reading, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry.

Sophia Serrano, Reporter

Now is the time to be a revolutionary, agreed three poets who spoke at an SRJC Libraries online poetry reading April 16. 

The three poets, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Angel Dominguez and Tongo Eisen-Martin, each shared excerpts from their work.

SRJC librarian Loretta Esparza hosted the event in a continued effort to uphold SRJC’s land acknowledgement, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees Oct. 2020.

Native and emigrated poets Brolaski, Dominguez and Eisen-Martin each strive to pressure the boundaries of writing, community, identity and activism through their respective works.

Brolaski is a “two-spirit” individual who resides in the Chumash territory of California. Two-spirit is an indigenous non-binary gender, and Brolaski uses it/its pronouns.

“You know, like the sky and the grass and the bird,” Brolaski said. “Where you can’t tell what it is.”

Brolaski was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry, and has also written and co-written four books, including 2017’s “Of Mongrelitude,” 2012’s “Advice for Lovers,” 2011’s “Gowanus Atropolis,” and 2009’s “NO GENDER: Reflections on the Life & Work of Kari Edwards.”

A like-minded two-spirit, Angel Dominguez is a Latinx poet of Yucatec Mayan descent who uses they/them pronouns and was raised by immigrant parents. They write with hopes to bring awareness to the injustice of police brutality. “Abolish the police,” Dominguez declared during the SRJC poetry reading. 

Author of “ROSESUNWATER,” and 2015’s “Black Lavender Milk,” Dominguez earned their bachelor’s from the University of California Santa Cruz before venturing on to Boulder, Colorado to earn their masters of fine arts from the Jack Kerouac School of Poetics at Naropa University.

Tuning into the mid-April Zoom conference from unceded Ohlone land, Dominguez let their poems introduce themself instead of the usual formalities and began with their poem “Headlines.”

“We keep reading “dead” or “killed” instead of “murdered” or “executed,” said Dominguez. “The violence of the system of systems, the constant threat of the  police. And when you’re “other” in America, everyone is the police.”

Dominguez paused.

“This poem was written five years ago. It upsets me that it’s relevant now,” they said. “I hope that someday I never have to read these poems again.”

Quick to follow Dominguez’s passionate presentation, the acclaimed organizer Tongo Eisen-Martin un-muted his mic so his booming voice could be heard by the SRJC students and faculty listening in.

An educator  originally from San Francisco, Eisen-Martin focuses his powerful poetics on issues of extrajudicial killings of Black people, mass incarceration and human rights.

Fervent to reach every soul he deems failed by the system, Eisen-Martin has taught at detention centers all around the country, and his latest curriculum, “We Charge Genocide Again,” has been used by organizers across the U.S.

His other books, 2015’s “Someone’s Dead Already” and 2017’s “Heaven Is All Goodbyes, were each nominated for the California Book Award, and the latter was awarded the California Book Award and the American Book Award.

He also lectured at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at his alma mater Columbia University, where he earned his master’s.

Eisen-Martin left his virtual audience with the message that “we just have to be revolutionary.”