Staging Poems and Festivals: Juan Luis Guzmán Takes the Reins at LitHop 2017

Today, Fresno poet laureate Lee Herrick interviews Juan Luis Guzmán, the organizer of this year's LitHop. The festival is this Saturday, April 29th! Our coverage of the upcoming event can be found here and here and here. You are organizing this year's LitHop. How did that come about, and what, if anything, has been exciting during the planning stages? Last year, I was a reader at LitHop and I was able to experience how transformative the event was for the city and for the participants. I have been a reader for similar events in larger cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles but never in Fresno. There was a sense of magic to the fact that this was happening here, at home in Fresno. When … [Read more...]

Lee Herrick, Poet Laureate of Fresno: The Tropics of Meta Interview

This interview between two leading lights of Fresno's cultural scene is part of our ongoing coverage of the upcoming LitHop festival - this Saturday, the 29th! Other stories can be found here and here. Juan Luis Guzmán: As the founder of LitHop, how would you describe the purpose of the festival, and what do you think it has brought to the community? Lee Herrick: I had envisioned LitHop for over 15 years, and it finally came together last year. One main purpose of LitHop is to bring together a wide range of writers in a variety of public venues for a walkable, fun, literary experience. I wanted it be free for attendees, diverse in its offerings, and well run. I envision it as a form of … [Read more...]

Spinning through Arab America (and More) with Randa Jarrar

Despite being a slim volume, Randa Jarrar’s remarkable collection, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, manages to take readers on a world tour of unlikely places: the shabby apartments of an Egyptian beach town, the mean streets of Yonkers, the tony Seattle home of a celebrity feminist academic.  Jarrar, who teaches creative writing at Fresno State, offers readers a dazzling array of perspectives and voices, at turns slangy and foul-mouthed and bittersweet and lyrical.  Throughout it all, though, Jarrar ties together her short stories with the thread of an Arab and Arab-American experience that is diverse and varied yet utterly distinctive. Her voice may change from story to story, but it remains frank, … [Read more...]

Kickin’ It with Gary Soto: The Tropics of Meta Interview

When the opportunity to hold a microphone during a Gary Soto interview came up, I leapt at it.  Soto, the world-renowned (and I can say that: world-renowned), Fresno-born, Mexican-American author headlines the second annual LitHop literary festival on April 29. We met Soto in the hall outside his museum in Fresno City College's old administration building. Soto drives down from his home in Berkeley regularly to conduct tours there. He introduces visitors to his books, poems, awards, photos, and keepsakes from his childhood. He points out the places he proposed to young women, was rejected, and later  found poetry. Fresno City College Professor Juan Luis Guzmán conducted much of the formal … [Read more...]