Artists We <3

Written by BlackbirdGo December 7, 2018
The People

Art has been, and will always be, a beacon. I can’t think of anyone more fundamental to the foundation and survival of Reno than the artists—our community of movers, shakers, makers, builders, and crafters. Art is what drives us all forward, be it Burning Man and the erection of sculpture, the muralists and the vibrant paint that drapes our well-traveled paths, or the musicians that always lead us to friends and home. Every week I’m astonished by something new, some new way to explore the city, and a reason to feel like some parts of this world might not be total shit after all.

One of my favorite weirdos in town is Elisa Garcia. I’ve been proud to call her a friend for the last few years now. She’s an event promoter, helping hand, dancing bandit, wordsmith, and all-around goddess. She hardly needs an introduction; that’s one of the many things that makes friendship with her so much fun. To many, she has been a huge force in fun projects and shows. I first became familiar with her work through the Spoken Views Collective (SVC). I conned her into speaking with me in my ugly, messy apartment under the guise of beer and a favor returned in the future.

Cayla: For those that are unfamiliar, explain SVC/community outreach and your involvement. It’s been a minute since we talked about how it all got started...

Elisa: Spoken Views Collective is a poetry collective based out of Reno, NV. Iain Watson and Tony Walker created the group back in 2006. They wanted a consistent spoken word event, and, after trial and error, they became Reno’s longest running poetry open mic. I joined back in 2008. I mostly performed at different open mic nights; then, over time, I became the host. I also took on a couple of plays in which I performed spoken word. I helped run writing workshops with a youth branch that MJ Ubando and myself founded. This year I was the “slam master,” which is basically the person in charge of any adult open mics and slams and ultimately the mom of the Reno slam team.

Has your idea of poetry changed at all over the years? When I think about my old art, I low-key cringe a little about some of the content I used to create. How do you feel when you reflect on your old works?

When I first started actively sharing my poetry, I was – not great. I was noticeably nervous at open mics, I didn’t know how to project, and I sounded like an overdramatic, sad, teenage girl with rhyming skills. I am still an overdramatic, sad girl at times – I’m just confident now. Growing up, I was taught that poetry had to be written particular ways, which lead me to think I was doing something wrong. Like, if my poetry didn’t follow the rules, then it wasn’t worth sharing. Spoken word helped me get past that feeling of uncertainty.

I feel like I am definitely growing up as a poet. For the longest time, I was an angsty girl poet. I wrote a lot about bad breakups, I’d talk shit about other poets who were anti-feminist, and I feel like I’m so much more than that. Now, I write a lot of autobiographical poems about difficult experiences. I write a lot to raise awareness about sexual assault, sexuality, abuse, mental health, my heritage, and body positivity. Poetry has given me a huge boost in my self-confidence, and I want to share that with everyone. I want to become the voice for people who aren’t ready to share their own.

How do you stay inspired? Do you have a ritual or process or do you feel like you roll with whatever comes naturally?

I follow my favorite poets on social media. I’m the biggest fangirl. I like keeping track of their progress and buying their poetry books when they come out. I love being around creative energy, so you’ll, more often than not, see me out at shows or events around town. I really enjoy theater, and, at the end of a really good play, I feel ready to create. I don’t really have a process. I tend to write late at night when I’m a bit loopy. I feel like if I’m tired and not trying too hard to make something – that’s when the magic happens.

What does the future hold for the community and local scene? Where do you feel like you’re heading?

I think the poetry scene here is growing. A lot of our youth poets are in college now, so they’ve been able to reach an entirely different crowd. I hope that more people are able to come out and share their voice. I also hope that anyone who has ever felt alone or a little weird comes out and joins us. This community is my family, and I am so thankful for that. I can only hope we can welcome more people.

Are there any upcoming events/things you wanna raise awareness of or promote?

We have a monthly open mic and slam every third Wednesday at The Holland Project. It’s always all ages, and it’s great for new and experienced poets alike. We will also have our quarterly Lit at Nite event coming soon, so if you’re interested in adult-themed variety shows – definitely keep an eye out. Also, check out for any upcoming events I may have forgotten to mention.

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important to me because it gave me a voice. I was an incredibly quiet and shy kid, so, when I discovered poetry, I felt like I could share the crazy thoughts going on in my head. I was never unimaginative, but I felt like no one would understand me unless I wrote my ideas down on paper. I wrote a lot of screenplays and short stories before poetry. Writing has been my own personal therapy. It allows me to be myself.

Personally, I’ve got a stack of nine different books I’m never gonna finish, but what are you reading right now?

Currently, Vogue 3:16 by Vogue Robinson. It’s a collection of poems by a Vegas poet. She came into town for the Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl one year, and I’ve been a friend and fan of her ever since.

Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.