Poet Rolando Ortiz exposes details of his life on Facebook, reveals the top items on his Cholo Bucket List, and posts photos of his food creations and the silly antics of his kids. La Bloga recently sat down with the ex-gangster who was put behind bars at the tender age of nine.
The poet and writing teacher has moved away from a bounce-back system of incarceration. His last arrest was over ten years ago. In his neighborhood, police know him as someone they can talk to. This doesn’t make him exempt from the occasional stops and pullovers for driving while looking like a gangster. However, public speaking is an asset for the charismatic poet who laughs easily and always looks happy.
“I learned in life whatever vibe that you give out is what you get back. Being friendly and being able to be approached by others is important. I learned that from the Dalai Lama. Part of my happiness comes from my family, my kids, and poetry. I try to let other people feed off my vibes.”
When he’s not writing poetry, he enjoys cooking the Mexican dishes that his mother taught him. He was the youngest of seven kids and credits his mother for his love of cooking. Rolando says he was a chef in a past life and jokes that his cooking is the real reason his fiancé loves him. His Facebook updates are filled with photos of his latest mouth-watering creation. The 36-year-old says his kids love it when he cooks breakfast.
In January 2010, he was approached by a gang unit officer and asked to give writing workshops to troubled youth. “It was something I always wanted to do,” says Ortiz, “it’s important to give back to the community.”
Rolando has been writing poetry since he was a 12-year-old youth at East Lake Juvenile Hall. While inside, he started his Cholo Bucket List to express all the things he wanted to do when released. He shares his Cholo Bucket List with his students and talks about all the things he’s been able to cross off, including hearing the Dalai Lama speak. One of his biggest accomplishments is working with Luis J. Rodriguez who has encouraged his mentorship of troubled youth and his poetry. His poetry influences include Luis Rodriguez, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda and Federico G. Lorca, Luivette Resto, and Diego Robles.
Acceptance among local poets has also been important to Ortiz who also names the meeting of Rafael Alvarado as an important step in his career as poet. “I’ve never met another poet who I’ve hit it off so well,” said Ortiz. “I met Rafael at a literary festival and now I’m part of the Hollywood Institute of Poetics (H.I.P.).
Part of his role in H.I.P. is hosting a regular poetry reading at the Paloma Room in Montebello. The barroom setting offers mixed drinks and food. The next event on June 5 from 5:30 to 9:00pm features Liz Gonzalez, Richard Modiano, Luis J. Rodriguez, A K Toney and Diego Robles at 624 Whittier Blvd.
Tonight: Friday, May 27 at Beyond Baroque, Muejerismo and Latina Poets. Join La Bloga’s Melinda Palacio, the editor and publisher of Pilgrimage Magazine, Maria Melendez, local poets, Luivette Resto and Frankie Hernandez, and a one-day art gallery presentation by Gabriella Azul Parra at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291, 7:30 pm. Host is Rafael Alvarado.
Saturday, May 28, is the 6th Annual Small Press Book Fair, 235 Hill Street, Santa Monica. Melinda Palacio reads with Teresa Dowell and poets from New Poets of the American West: An Anthology of Eleven Western States. Look for the booth, starting at 10:00 am.