Hermosa: Finding Inner Beauty Through Poetry
By Frank Rojas 9/17/19
Writing for and about the city has become a common theme in Yesika Salgado’s poetry. She explains that the Los Angeles she once knew is quickly disappearing. Salgado works to document the real and inner beauty of the city, one that is often unnoticed when it comes from communities of color.
“There’s a mural on my block that I walk by every day. It’s about artists from L.A. and it’s a bunch of white men. I hate that that’s the story that gets told... So when the city became complex for me, of course I started writing about it. When it started feeling less and less like home, I was trying to figure out why.”
Last Thursday, Yesika performed a live reading of selected poems as well as a sit-down conversation with friend and New York Times journalist, Walter Thompson-Hernández. The two talked about growing up in Los Angeles, riding public transportation, and of course Yesika’s newly published third book. It is titled Hermosa.
The seats inside the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Los Angeles Central Library were filled with a community of followers, or “Mangos” as Yesika calls them. They are inspired by the poet’s words and admire her work. Her poetry is a place where they see themselves reflected as both art and stories.
The yellow-based cover depicts the image of a lavender flower branch of a jacaranda tree. Rather than include palm trees that are a part of Los Angeles’s iconography, Yeskia was inspired by the trees that greet her outside her home. The imagery serves as a nod to the city, one that can be both beautiful and messy at times.
While in conversation with Walter, Yesika described how Hermosa is a book that is selfishly for herself. It is dedicated to the brown women of Los Angeles, specifically her niece. It serves as a reminder to be selfish and to do enjoyable work.
“It’s an honor to have the access that I have and to be able to tell the stories that I tell. But I have to work with integrity and make sure that I’m telling the story the way that it actually happened, or the way that it should be remembered.”
Hermosa comes as the final book in a trilogy of poems. While her first book Corazon is dedicated to her Salvadorian family, and her second book Tesoro is for the women in her life, Hermosa is devoted to her home Los Angeles. It’s the city where she has found both love and heartache. The collection of poems is Yesika fully arriving into her voice. One that is sweet and determined.
Yesika’s words are more than just a reflection from the heart. They come from a woman who is caught in a Los Angeles that is both a place to call home and an escape from reality. Hermosa is a reminder of the beauty that comes from places that are deemed undesirable. They are places where only the inner back roads of the spirit can bring you back home.
She closed the night with selected poetry readings from her book. The audience was moved by both laughter and tears. Her words hit at the root of the soul. And somehow a room full of strangers, in the central hub of a busy city, all became united in their own love and in their own pain.
In an excerpt from Yesika’s poem titled “Blood Right” she reads:
“...I mourned my father on the 704
I got my test results about infertility on the 302
I wrote the first poem in my first book on the 201
broke up with plenty of boyfriends
over the phone at bus stops
made my way to the beach
contemplated walking out into the water
but I always came back on the last bus
counted the purple trees on my block
kissed my mother’s cheek goodnight
gentrification tried to tell me
that what once loved me
can no longer love me back
and I laughed
you can’t take what’s in my blood.”
Hermosa is now available to purchase. Yesika is currently in the Los Angeles area performing live poetry readings from her book. She will be at Espacio 1839 on September 21st, and at Stories Books & Cafe on September 26th.
Make sure to follow her on social media for the most hilarious Instagram live videos @yesikastarr