by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
LitHop 2017, an annual literary festival founded last year by former Fresno Poet Laureate Lee Herrick as a fundraiser for the Fresno Arts Council’s poetry programs, kicked off last Saturday, April 29, in an array of venues around Fresno’s Tower District. Forty diverse readings spread out over five hours, featuring the work of more than 150 writers, explored themes of love, hate, sex, violence, politics, motherhood, cultural identity and heritage, and feminism.
Exploring the Gothic: Four Women on What Haunts Us, which showcased the work of Alysha Hoffa, Mary Pickett, Jennifer M. Dean, and Jessica R. Santillan, breathed new life into the traditional campfire ghost story, capturing various aspects of the paranormal from a woman’s point of view. Hoffa reflected upon growing up with no religion in the Christian Midwest, where “a haunting was more comfortable than a religion I didn’t understand,” while Pickett shared a piece of classic ghost fiction, concerning an elderly man whose spirit refuses to give up his home, even after death. Dean recalled an old Victorian home in her hometown of Patterson, Louisiana, and the two very different approaches to its haunting, by its residents, including an exorcism. And Santillan relayed the tale of a young girl’s discovery of her grandmother’s magical roots.
Las Lunas Locas Presents: All She Wrote featured the poetry of Las Lunas Locas, a women’s writing collective from El Sereno, California, ranging in topic from immigration and police brutality to alcoholism and abusive relationships. Poets Gloria Longin, Zury Chavez, Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete, and Cynthia Guardado bared their souls in passionate and evocative verse with titles like “Radical Space,” “Metamorphosis,” “We Were Animals,” and “To the Man Who Murdered My Cousin.”
And Writing Through the Womb: A Reading by WOC Mothers explored the intersection of motherhood with writing, feminism, and being a woman of color. Fresno City College’s Sylvia Savala documented her mother’s rural childhood in Pieces of Liver, while children’s book author Larissa Mercado-Lopez related her experiences navigating motherhood in the halls of academia. Writer Carribean Fragoza took metaphor to a whole new level, likening childrearing to cannibalism in Eat the Mouth that Feeds You, and California State University, Fresno’s Randa Jarrar shared the journey of her mother’s pregnancy, as well as that of her own.
LitHop is a showcase of the Central Valley’s vibrant literary arts scene, rich with a variety of cultures and voices that span both genres and generations, and this year’s edition was no exception!