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SGV 013: Pomona’s fading graffiti reborn as exalted poetry

Chris Greenspon February 18, 2021 429

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SGV Weekly
SGV 013: Pomona’s fading graffiti reborn as exalted poetry

Michael Torres doesn’t revel in the idea of ‘making good and getting out of the hood.’ NPR’s Best Books of 2020? Yeah, that’s pretty sweet. Getting paid to write and teach? Of course, that’s good. Being able to hold the memories of your past life as a graffiti artist and not feel like you betrayed or lost who you were? Maybe that’s what success is. 

Present day. Courtesy of Michael Torres

Torres was born in 1986 and raised in South Pomona. The speaker in his book, An Incomplete List of Names, describes the joy and pain of growing up part of a graffiti crew: Being there for a homie who just got dumped and wanted to do figure 8’s in the mud in his convertible… Inspecting a bullet hole at school in the computer lab… attending numerous post-funeral family reunions. 

Back in the day. Courtesy of Michael Torres

These are the kinds of memories Torres reckoned with for years after he moved to Minnesota to pursue his Master’s of Fine Art. His book’s title is a wide open reference to everything and everyone he left behind. He laughs now at the life-changing day when he got arrested for painting on the roof of the Indian Hill Mall, but the bulk of An Incomplete List of Names struggles (not to be read, Torres is very clearly spoken). 

REMEK at the beach. Courtesy of Michael Torres

It struggles with violence, racism, family taken away, friends forgotten, and the shedding of a constructed identity – REMEK, the painter. Most of all, Torres grapples with understanding his motivations to move away to evolve as a writer, and the consequences of that. However, by getting through it Torres has created the opportunity to construct his identity once again. Whether or not he intended to, he also gave his readers from the San Gabriel Valley a great gift in laying out his journey. It may help them on their own.

Buy a special graffiti-autographed copy of An Incomplete List of Names here.
Buy a less special, regular copy for $2 less here.

By the way, this is the season one finale of SGV Weekly.
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Chris Greenspon

Radio journalist from La Puente, CA ... SGV Reporter for Streetsblog ... Past lives in LA news radio

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