Joshua Tehee

Writers Resist: Fresno authors plan readings ahead of Inauguration Day

Fresno Poet Laureate Lee Herrick, left, smiles as he poses next to Juan Felipe Herrera, the 21st United States Poet Laureate. Herrick will join more than a dozen local author for the Writers Resist reading Sunday, Jan. 15. Herrera will be unable to attend the event.
Fresno Poet Laureate Lee Herrick, left, smiles as he poses next to Juan Felipe Herrera, the 21st United States Poet Laureate. Herrick will join more than a dozen local author for the Writers Resist reading Sunday, Jan. 15. Herrera will be unable to attend the event. ezamora@fresnobee.com

The Writers Resist movement started as Facebook post – a message from poet Erin Belieu to her fellow authors following the election of Donald Trump.

It has become a literary show of force with a hashtag – #writeourdemocracy.

Hundreds of writers will gather on Sunday in a series of public events meant to bolster compassion and equality, free speech and democracy. The events coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and come less than a week before Inauguration Day.

The biggest gathering will occur in New York City on the steps of the public library and include a massive list of authors, from former U.S. poet laureates Robert Pinsky and Rita Dove to Laurie Anderson, Rosanne Cash, Michael Cunningham, Jeffrey Eugenides, Amy Goodman, Rick Moody and a few dozen more.

There are concurrent events planned in Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Austin, Portland, Omaha, Seattle, London, Zurich and Hong Kong. In all, there are close to 100 events scheduled for the day (there are four in Chicago alone), including “Writers Resist: Fresno Louder for Free Expression,” happening at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mia Cuppa Caffe.

The free reading will feature more than a dozen well-known local authors: Armen Bacon, Marisol Baca, David Campos, Steven Church, Margarita Engle, Peter Everwine, Corrinne Hales, Fresno Poet Laureate Lee Herrick, Tim Z. Hernandez, Randa Jarrar, Bryan Medina, Michael Medrano, Michelle Patton and Joseph Voth.

“Juan Felipe Herrera will be out of town, unfortunately, but I know he’ll be with us in spirit,” says Herrick, who organized the event. Herrera is in his second term as U.S. Poet Laureate. The late Fresno poet Philip Levine held the same post in 2011.

“Fresno is a vital part to the fabric of American poetry and literature,” Herrick says, adding that he made sure the city was represented. “There are stellar writers from all genres here.”

So the event is purposefully diverse. Bacon is known for her memoir work and columns in The Fresno Bee. Church has written several books of essays and literary nonfiction, and Jarrar is an award-winning novelist. The authors will be called to read, in alphabetical order, for five minutes.

Hernandez is a poet and novelist, whose latest work, “All They Will Call You,” tells the story of the 1948 plane crash that killed 28 Mexican nationals (and inspired the protest song “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee).” He became aware of the Writers Resist movement before the Fresno event was even announced. He connected with the concept that writers have – and this is taken from the Writers Resist own press – “tremendous power to bypass empty political discourse.”

“As writers, we spend our time with language and rhetoric,” says Hernandez.

So much of the language and rhetoric over the past year been divisive. And much of that has been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, he says. The events are meant to reshape the public conversation into something resembling a dialogue.

“And a constructive dialogue,” he says. “It’s not an anti-Trump rally.”

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

Writers Resist: Fresno Louder for Free Expression

  • 2 p.m. Sunday
  • Mia Cuppa Caffe, 620 E. Olive Ave.
  • Free, all ages
  • 559-499-1844, search writers resist Fresno on Facebook
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