The art, music and writing scene in and around Denver often goes underrated when compared to other cities across the country. We sat down with Molina Speaks recently to learn more about the contributions he gives to Denver through his words, and to learn more about the culture that is slowly, but surely, getting the nation’s attention.
Jonathan Gonzalez: Molina Speaks. This is the part of the interview where I say what that means, what you do. So why don’t you tell me what Molina Speaks is.
Molina Speaks: I’m a poet, I’m a writer, performance artist, educator, and human being, spirit.
J: How long have you been writing and tell me what inspires you day-to-day, because you write about a lot of different things.
MS: True. I’ve been writing for about 20 years. At the time I started, I really didn’t consider it poetry or art. But I guess, at this point in my life I’m just inspired by the opportunity to exist and really just being able to say something that matters.
J: Where are you from originally and how’d you find your way here?
MS: I’m from Rawlins, Wyoming, and Denver was always the closest big city, so it was kind of a dream to live here. So it’s been home for about a decade and you know, I have my family here and I love being here.
J: It’s one thing when you grow up in a small town, you have dreams of the big city. What did you find when you got here and what do you still find 10 years later?
MS: Man, there’s a lot of culture here. There’s a lot of culture. There’s a beautiful art scene. There’s a really powerful music scene. And there’s good people and I think sometimes Denver doesn’t get credit for that. The arts and cultural scene here, you know, beyond the scene, the community and the inspiration is vibrant.
J: I think the art scene in Denver is incredibly underrated. Would you say the same thing?
MS: Denver’s art scene is underrated, but that’s changing. As the city grows and becomes big city, you know, you’re going to see a lot more coming out of this city in terms of music, arts, culture and the diversity that exists here.
J: You’re showing me poetry and writings about anything from being a migrant, being an immigrant to what it’s like cruising down South Federal Boulevard. What do you write about? How do you get inspired by all these different things around you?
MS: Some of it is family roots. I’m working right now with the concept of root and just who we are as people, where we come from, who we are as human beings, who we are as spiritual entities.
I mean, some of my favorite artists live within the city. So I’m constantly in dialogue with people around me, and not just people.
J: 11:40:14 How often do you write?
MS: I write every day, in some form or fashion, every single day, whether it’s lyrics, poetry, fictional stories. Just reflections. I’m always writing. And when I’m not writing on paper, I’m writing in my head.
J: You undersold yourself when I asked you what Molina speaks, right? Molina Speaks is you -- but you do so much more than just write. You give back. Why do you do it?
MS: We’re part of an interconnected world. We’re part of an interconnected universe. We are a small, miniscule part of this wonder of our existence. So I think that, you know, we owe it to our community, we owe it to the world, we owe it to the universe, but we owe it to ourselves to just get as much as we can out of this experience and also give as much.
J: For the person out there who may watch this and would love to learn how to write or get into writing but may not know how to do it, what do you say?
MS: I feel like we fear writing because we fear our true selves. We ‘re so taught in this society to doubt ourselves and limit ourselves. So I think like being brave and courageous in who you are and what you know and where you come from is a first step. And just believing that your words matter, you know, believing that your words lead to actions that create reality. I think that’s a first step. You know, it’s a meditation and it’s also a form of empowerment.
MS: I feel like the next 10 years look a lot like the 10 years I’ve just had, in the sense of continuing to do what I love and continuing to seek ways to collaborate with people. I don’t have any particular end goals. For me, there’s no end goal, there’s no particular benchmark. It’s just about continuing to create opportunities to work with people in meaningful ways.
MS: The new book of poetry that I’m publishing this fall. It’s called Harvest of the Dreamer. We’re here beside this beautiful mural. Jay Jaramillo and his father, Jerry Jaramillo. Jay, one of the artists on this mural, he is the artist for the cover art of my book.
J: What’s the book about?
MS: 1 It’s about our dreams. It’s about us as dreamers. It’s a harvest of ideas and energy that I've been working with for 10-15 years and really taking some of the best of that work and putting it on paper.
J: What’s that like compiling all those thoughts?
MS: I mean, I have so many different works of poetry and so many different writings, at this point it’s all about kind of putting them into specific collections. So for this particular one, it was just about speaking of this dream.
J: What inspires you now?
MS: My father, my mother, my children, my partner. Like I've said, it’s just being here. I feel like it’s a very special thing to be here in this moment in time, and I feel like it’s easy to overlook that when we look around at what’s going on in our society. All the pressure, the stress, the violence, the drugs, the alcohol, everything that compounds and makes us feel that we’re up against the most. When you put in perspective, it’s a wonder to exist and so I’m reminded of that every day in the youth that I work with, in my infant daughter’s smile, my son, who’s a teenager now. It’s just breathing at this point. It’s a practice of appreciating inspiration.
J: Do you think that we can exist better, all of us?
MS: Most definitely. I mean, I feel like, I feel like right now in society, we’re experiencing shifts that are going to determine the next hundreds years, maybe the next thousand years of human existence. So I feel like we have an incredible opportunity to push us into a more meaningful way of being.
J: Anything else you want to say?
MS: Anybody who takes a look at my work, I appreciate your time, your energy, and I hope you find something meaningful in it.