The Molotov Mouths Outspoken Word Troupe
is a collective of politically engaged poets based mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area
. Founded in 2001 by George Tirado, James Tracy and Ananda Esteva; they became known for topical yet powerful poetry and spoken word. Their debut reading was at La Pena Cultural Center
, opening up for John Trudell
on March 7, 2001.
The trio soon recruited other poets such as Dani Montgomery, and Junebug for a West Coast tour. Subsequent line-up changes included Josiah Luis-Alderete, Solidad Di Costa, Raw Knowledge, and Leroy Moore
The group was influenced heavily by the Latino and Black Arts Movements of the Sixties, Sandburg and Mayakovsky, and the Labor Arts Movements of the Thirties. The Molotov Mouths have toured all over the United States and Canada-in prisons, union halls, music festivals, schools, night clubs and community arts centers.
Poetry in the Age of Globalization
What made the troupe unique is that each member offered a vision of post 9-11 life from extremely different starting points. Through this, their performances were able to explore identity without becoming stuck inside identity politics.
Ananda Esteva's work depicted the intricacies of growing up bilingual and bicultural, and the child of Chilean-American exiles.
Dani Montgomery's writing explored issues of a low-income working class white person's in the United States. Also dealing with gender and Irish issues she has commonly been compared with the late writer Tillie Olsen.
Alumni of the Molotov Mouths have continued various forms of cultural activism. Ananda Esteva published " Pisco Sours
," a collection of poetry about her Chilean-American background. Leroy Moore writes about the intersection of disability and race, particularly in the Hip-Hop world. Josiah Luis-Alderete owns and operates a Taco Shop in Fairfax California, Junebug is part of the Po' Poets
, a like minded poetry troupe. Raw Knowledge produces electronic music on the Entartete Kunst label
Dani Montgomery has become a parent. James Tracy remains active as a political organizer and writer. George Tirado released a solo CD entitled "We Didn't Cross the Border, the Border Crossed Us!" Solidad Di Costa remains active in the spoken word scene.
Recognition and Criticism
The Molotov Mouths Outspoken Word Troupe received favorable print reviews of publications and performances in a variety of newspapers, mostly alternative free weeklies and left-leaning magazines. Dani Montgomery's poem "Dear Brother" in which she appealed to her sibling not to join the military was given a "Best of the Bay" award by the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
A common thread runs through most of the printed descriptions of the Molotov Mouth's work. When presenting poetry that combines personal and political concerns, they hit their stride and produce cutting-edge work. The occasional lapse into dogmatic or sloganeering rants has always diminished the otherwise powerful writing.
A handful of blogs have criticized the group and individuals in it. One UC Berkeley student remarked that it was hypocritical for poets to use the name of the Soviet official who signed the non-aggression pact with Germany (Molotov). One accused some of George Tirado's published poems as bordering on plagiarism of the work of seminal Chicano poet Corky Gonzales.
- Mayworx Festival, Vancouver BC, 2002
- St. Mark’s Poetry Center, New York City, 2003
- Bumbershoot Festival Literary Stage, Seattle WA, 2003
- Manifesto: Coming Out Against Empire, City Lights Publishing, San Francisco 2004
- Under the Volcano Festival, Vancouver BC, 2004
- Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival, Milbrae CA, 2004. 2005
- Great Labor Arts Exchange, Washington DC, 2006, 2007
- Emerging Poets of the Political Imagination (Self-published tour chapbook 2001)
- Molotov Mouths: Explosive New Writing (Manic D Press, 2003)
- Politically Direct, Poetically Correct (CD, 2002)
- Pisco Sours, Ananda Esteva, (Civil Defense Poetry, 2006)
- Sparks and Codes, James Tracy (Civil Defense Poetry, 2006)
- ¡Venceremos! Words in Red Paint, Ananda Esteva, in the anthology "Homelands: Women's Journeys Across Race, Place and Time" (Seal Press, 2007)
- Black Disabled Man With a Big Mouth and a High IQ, Leroy Moore, (Gibbs Publishing, 2007)
- http://www.molotovmouths.com Molotov Mouths' official website
- http://wwwcivildefensepoetry.com Civil Defense Poetry, publishers
- http://www.manicdpress.com Manic D Press, publishers
- http://www.sealpress.com/home.php Seal Press, publishers
- Apolcalypse Mouth review, Saab Lofton Wednesday, November 12, 2003, Las Vegas City Life
- Between the Covers review, Katie Haegele, Aug. 13, 2003 Philadelphia Weekly