The UnCaged Soul of Rudy Francisco
interview by: iman milner
There are many words to express the genius that is Rudy Francisco. I, like many, was first introduced to the talented poet through taped performances of some of his most popular poems that found themselves circulating around the internet as the young artists’ popularity grew. But nothing could have prepared me for the spark lit in me during a live performance of some of his most personal pieces. It seemed that he had heard exactly what my own heart had been too afraid to say many times. He froze those moments into words so perfectly I kicked myself for not having written them myself. Though relatively small in stature, Francisco’s presence is magnetic on stage making him seem larger than life. Off stage, he’s humble. Sitting across from me in a crowded Starbucks he had no problem opening up about his accidental dive into writing or his fear of commitment.
Edge Magazine: So, tell me how we came to know the incredible talent of Rudy Francisco?
Rudy: Well, I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. I started writing during my senior year in high school. Before I discovered writing, I played basketball and that’s all I was really interested in.
Edge Magazine: What made you try out your writing skills in the lane of poetry?
Rudy: I had a teacher who made us go home and write poems for extra credit. I wrote one and brought it back and before the class started I let a friend read it. She told me it was really great and said I should stand up in front of the class and read it but I didn’t want to, so she read it for me. The class really enjoyed it and afterward my teacher pulled me aside and said that I should take writing more seriously. I took it from there.
Edge Magazine: How did you reach the decision of making it your career?
Rudy: I was performing fairly regularly around my city and my girlfriend at the time got me tickets for Def Poetry on Broadway. That was the first time I got to see poetry in a major setting, it was at the Kodak Theater and the place was packed. It was a confirmation for me that there was really a market for poetry. After reading up on some of the Def poets and finding out some of them were doing it professionally, I realized it was something you could actually make a living off of. I started doing competitions and once I began doing well in them I started to meet people who had agents and were doing this full time and gradually they’d pull me aside and say I should look into making poetry a career. There was nothing else that gave me the full time thrill of what poetry offered me.
Edge Magazine: Can you or anyone else truly define “poetry”?
Rudy: We often put poetry in a little box and say “this is what a poem is” and what other people do isn’t really poetry. I think that’s one of the biggest things we struggle with. What exactly is poetry? And what fits in to that box? If we look at poems by fairly famous poets and we use the rubrics that we have for ourselves some of them may not be considered “poets” but they’re widely renown as such. As a community of artists we have the toughest time defining poetry. So, no, I’m not sure I can.
Edge Magazine: What would you say is your affinity as a writer? What do you most like to write about?
Rudy: People often peg me as a love poet because those are the poems that get fairly popular but when I look at my entire body of work the poems that are about love make up such a small part. Lately, I’ve been writing a lot of poems about myself. In conversation I hardly ever talk about myself and I’ve ignored that in my art as well. I’ve tried to write more about my personal struggles—things that I may not like to admit to others or myself.
Edge Magazine: Would you say that new approach has brought clarity to your perception of yourself?
Rudy: Yes. But it’s not just the poems I’ve written lately. When I go back and read poems from 2-3 years ago it gives me a window into what I was going through at that time and who I was. Early on I wrote about a lot of women’s issues because my mother and aunt were so influential in my life. I was practically mentored by women. I was around women so much. That was all I really knew. I slowly transitioned to writing more about social issues I wanted to bring attention to things that were happening in America, especially the things that made me reevaluate myself.
Edge Magazine: Though you denounce being a “love poet”, your art speaks to a young man who knows a little bit about matters of the heart. Is that an unfair assumption?
Rudy: As much as I write about love I’m also very guarded when it comes to dating and falling in love. It’s very scary. Giving your all to somebody and hoping they don’t damage you is a very scary thought. So as much as I would love to be in love someday and as much as I want to be in a healthy relationship with the woman of my dreams, it’s kind of scary.
Edge Magazine: Now that you’ve made a name for yourself, are you venturing into any other avenues?
Rudy: What I’ve really taken on is cultivating the next generation of artists because what happens often in the local scene is once the artist gets popular and starts to tour, they leave their local scene with limited artistic creativity. So, I’ve been working hard to find poets who are really ambitious and really have a deep passion for writing and getting better. I try to motivate them. I pull them aside and let them know the path that I took to get to where I am. It’s important to inspire this next generation. If we don’t the art form dies.
Edge Magazine: So will there ever be a book of poems by Rudy Francisco?
Rudy: I definitely want to do a book. The reason I haven’t already is because often spoken word artists write to be heard not for someone to sit down and read it. So just recently I got to a place with my writing where if I handed it to someone to read it would still be good. My writing can finally stand-alone and it doesn’t need the performance aspect so now I’m ready to talk about doing a book.
Edge Magazine: Just talk about it?
Rudy: (laughs) Yes, just talk about it…for now.
Edge Magazine: Well Rudy when you’re long gone what do you hope people will say about you in your absence?
Rudy: That I was someone who really had a love for the art form. That I studied just as much as I performed. I don’t want my legacy to just be that of a performer but of a student of the art and as someone who loved it tremendously.
To download or listen to Rudy’s poetry, click here: www.myspace.com/rudyfranciscothepoet
Photos by Ashley Nguyen
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