Rodriguez’s life was shaped by gang activity and substance abuse on the streets of East L.A. As a young man he found redemption through art. His life is a testament to the power of words and self expression as salvation and transformation. He is an award-winning poet, children’s book author, memoirist, youth & arts advocate, community activist, and Los Angeles Poet Laureate who has worked to create opportunities to positively address conflict through creation and community dialogue.
Rodriguez is the author of several collections of poetry, including My Nature is Hunger: New and Selected Poems 1989-2004 and Borrowed Bones: New Poems from the Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. He has won a Poetry Center Book Award, Paterson Poetry Prize, and PEN/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and was honored with a Lannan Fellowship for Poetry. In 2014, Rodriguez was appointed Los Angeles Poet Laureate. He is best known for the national bestseller Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. This vivid memoir explores gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that haunts its participants. Jonathan Kozol called Always Running “An absolutely unique work: richly literary and poetic, yet urgent and politically explosive at the same time… A permanent testament to human courage and transcendence.” Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Gary Soto said “Rodriguez’s account of his coming of age is vivid, raw… fierce, and fearless… Here’s truth no television set, burning night and day, could ever begin to offer.”
Rodriguez’s honors include a Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a California Arts Council fellowship, and several Illinois Arts Council fellowships. He was one of 50 leaders worldwide selected as “Unsung Heroes of Compassion,” presented by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. In an interview in Rolling Stone, Bruce Springsteen said “I met a fella named Luis Rodriguez, a writer and a poet…Those are the people who give me optimism. They’re relentlessly hopeful, and they face it all on the front lines on a daily basis.”
During his three-day stay in Chelsea, Rodriguez will guide us on a journey that highlights and celebrates diversity but also illuminates the universal: our desire to express ourselves and our humanity.
Check out the following events with Rodriguez:
The 2019 Artist in Residence programs are made possible through a generous grant from the Chelsea Community Foundation and support from the Friends of the Chelsea District Library.