(Lit-)Crawling out of This Mess, at Survival of the Queerest

There are dozens of events within the three segments of this year’s Lit Crawl. But only Baruch Porras-Hernandez's showcase has QTPOCs of this caliber.

“I’m really excited about the artists who are people everyone should know about,” writer and performer Baruch Porras-Hernandez says. “I love hosting shows and holding space and getting an audience to love me — and getting an audience excited about things that I feel like right now people aren’t that excited about in San Francisco.

“It seems like everyone around me is excited about dumb things or tech things or the Salesforce Park,” he adds. “But for the past 10 years, I’ve been like, ‘We should be excited about spoken word and queer arts and comedy!’ Sometimes people are like ‘OK,’ and sometimes people are like, ‘Why are you still yelling, chubby man?’ ”

Lit Crawl, on the final night of Litquake (Saturday, Oct. 20), is the biggest literary crawl of its kind in the world, with readings at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m. Several are held in Berkeley, but Valencia Street has always been Lit Crawl’s home, and after hosting shows over the past several years at venues like the Elbo Room and The Chapel, Porras-Hernandez is coming to Public Works’ first floor for a queer, largely Latinx showcase called Survival of the Queerest during the 5 p.m. segment.

“My last actual four or five Lit Crawl shows have been ¿Donde Esta Mi Gente? shows, but this year because of everything happening, I decided to add Anand Vedawala, who’s Indian, and Luna Malbroux, who is Black and queer,” Porras-Hernandez says of the Zine Fest executive director and comic-playwright, respectively. “Because I feel like more Latinos should be standing with Black folks, creating space for Black folks. There’s so much colorism and anti-Blackness within the Latino community that I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to add Luna Malbroux ’cause she’s amazing and I love sharing the stage with her. She has such high energy.’ ”

Rounding out the lineup are poet and healer Luna Merbruja and comic Marcus Williams. This roster is Porras-Hernandez doing what he does, but it’s also a “very friendly, very gentle prod” aimed at Litquake for its overall demographic composition. (“I am happy that Litquake exists,” he nonetheless insists. “They’ve been very kind to me.”) As KQED is his sponsor, he’s mostly excited to pay artists who deserve it with a more enriching form of compensation than that dreaded word, exposure. At the same time, when he was younger, Porras-Hernandez was delighted to read for eight minutes at Martuni’s with playwright and Bay Area Reporter editor Jim Provenzano and get some free martinis out of it.

The theme of Survival of the Queerest is resistance, but it’s not obligatory for the five performers to adhere to it. Writers of color are often shoved into a box, Porras-Hernandez says.

“My rule is ‘Here’s the theme if you want one, but if you don’t, you can perform whatever you want,’ ” he says. “I, as a Mexican immigrant, have shown up to gigs, and white people who’ve paid me to be there say, ‘OK you’re here, now talk about immigrant suffering. Go!’ I’m like, ‘What? I’m going to talk about dick-sucking.’ But they’re like, ‘Tell us how hard it is to be Mexican or gay!’

“It depends on how much they’re paying me,” he adds, only half-kidding, “but it gets tiring and it gets weird.”

Porras-Hernandez, a two-time Literary Death Match winner who will publish two poetry chapbooks in early 2019 before going on tour with Sister Spit, plans to read a bit of his “All My Friends Are Depressed” piece, followed by a story about an incident that took place at Eros, the sauna in the Castro.

“I’m going to keep it on-brand: very sexual, very sex-positive. I might be a chubby immigrant, but I also love sex, so here’s a poem about sucking six dicks at the same time.”

Ribald exhibitionism is always enjoyable, but what warms this emcee’s heart the most is discovering new talent — even when they’re raw and he gets some pushback for booking them. Porras-Hernandez is the kind of person who won’t post to social media about a TV show he likes, because he doesn’t want to hear any spoilers, but he doesn’t jealously guard his discoveries.

“My favorite part of curating is getting excited with certain artists, and then I book them for a show and an audience falls in love with them. That is such a wonderful rush for me,” he says. I like trusting my gut with artists — and most of the time, I think I’m right.”

KQED: “Survival of the Queerest,” Saturday, Oct. 20, 5 p.m., at Public Works, 161 Erie St., litcrawlsanfrancisco2018.sched.com

Read more from SF Weekly‘s Litquake issue:

This Is the Last Literary Death Match at the Elbo Room
Don’t expect authors slamming each other over the back with folding chairs on Oct. 17. Expect literary excellence with a little silliness.

Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin Has Led a Most Magnificent Life
And she makes a compelling case that Richmond, Calif., saved the world.

What Would the Kids in the Hall Do?: Dave Foley at Litquake
Dave Foley discusses his memoir, Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy, and the sketch-comedy troupe’s legacy.

Ron Stallworth, Real-Life BlacKkKlansman
As in Spike Lee’s film adaptation, the Black police detective’s memoir of infiltrating the Klan reminds us that the ugliest parts of our country never quite left us.

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