Paul S. Flores
Paul S. Flores is one of the most influential Latino performance artists in the country and a nationally respected arts educator. He creates plays, oral narratives, and spoken word about transnationality and citizenship that spur and support societal movements that lead to change. Flores’ ability to paint a vivid picture of the bi-cultural Latino experience is shaped by his personal background and experience growing up in Chula Vista, California, near the Mexican border. His body of work touches on the immigrant story in all its complexities: from the violent—forced migration, gang life, war, incarceration, and separated families—to zooming in on intergenerational relationships and the struggle of preserving important cultural values. As a San Francisco artist of Mexican and Cuban-American heritage, Paul S. Flores has built a national reputation for interview-based theater and bilingual spoken word. He integrates Latino and indigenous healing practices to tell the stories of real people impacted by immigration and systemic inequalities. Flores' work has played across the United States and internationally in Cuba, Mexico, and El Salvador. Paul is a Doris Duke Artist Award winner and an inaugural NALAC Catalyst for Change awardee. His commissions have come from Creative Capital, La Peña Cultural Center, MACLA, MAP Fund, Pregones Theater, National Performance Network, SF Arts Commission, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and many more. Flores teaches Theater and Spoken Word at the University of San Francisco. He is a teaching artist in creative writing with the Prison Arts Project at CMF in Vacaville, and in San Quentin State Prison. He is the lead curator of Paseo Artistico Free Bilingual Community Art Stroll on 24th Street in the Mission District. He lives in San Francisco with his children.
Photo by Tommy Lau
The long-awaited full-length debut of poems by the nationally-celebrated, award-winning spoken word artist, playwright, and educator Paul Flores, WE STILL BE: Poems and Performances, is a collection that masterfully weaves together political and personal testimonies. WE STILL BE speaks to issues of gentrification, mixed Latino identity, masculinity, machismo, incarceration, systemic racism, racial unity, fatherhood, and more.
"Paul S. Flores unlocks the hot key, the people’s voice, and the Spanglish ritmoRhythm on how to write our story. He swags us into the soul and soulfulness of our life-chapters and our plight in the USA. It is a personal mambo, a face-to-face truth riffin’ us into a “Spanglish mandala of hope,” at last. We never again will ask ourselves “Who am I?” “Who are we?” Flores is not afraid to speak of his wounds of familia—yes, he is intimate, he is loving. He escorts us through the Bay Area, land of poets, artists, musicians, and muralists—he is part of that, he is all that—and we will be as we enter this world. Don’t forget: Huey Newton, Lolita Lebrón, and José Feliciano in this salsa history bowl that will light you up all the way to feverish happiness. Flores is a master weaver, with a blazing kaleidoscopic lamp that reveals and embodies our lives. No book like this one in the last 50 years."
––Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, Emeritus, winner of the Ruth Lily Prize, 2022, and Robert Frost Lifetime Achievement Medal, 2023
"Poetry evangelist” Paul S. Flores testifies to the importance of language, representation and equity, the hypocrisy of sham systems, and his personal journey to redefine masculinity with a responsibility to the younger generations. Flores stakes his claim in Bay Area poetics writing with true intimacy, vulnerability, and radical love for his community. WE STILL BE is part memoir, part call to action, and part cultural celebration. It is a declaration of hope that we will all win, that men can be trusted, and that San Francisco's poetic heartbeat is still something worth believing in.
––Amalia Ortiz, HBO Def Poet and American Book Award Winner. Author of Rant. Chant. Chisme. and The Canción Cannibal Cabaret & Other Songs
"In his own words, the 'first section is the spoken word hits', and those words are solar flares interrupting our measly little tech towers, burning through the social media with his explosive illuminations! Take heed nerds, he's coming with powerful words! Then his 'Ghost Poems about the exploration of my family' and these touched the core of my being with their eloquence and love and deep emotion. And last, '...section on resistance and resilience', which I devoured merging into the obstinate courage of the poems... A must read for anyone who actually cares about this world and much more...
––Jimmy Santiago Baca, American Book Award Winner, Chicano poet, Author of A Place To Stand, and the Hollywood film Blood In, Blood Out
"Careful memoir meets granite manifesto in this brilliant collection of wordplay. Through the doors of these poems, you get the sense for the true scope of the people; the ocean of the people; the countless biographies behind each marching eye in the city. And as we battle for the soul of metropolises ever turned against us, Flores is a poet frontline; proving that in craft is ascension."
––Tongo Eisen-Martin, San Francisco Poet Laureate, author and activist
"WE STILL BE is a raised fist. It is an open heart. It is a vulnerable love letter to place, pain, and permanence. Flores is a street prophet. A 21st Century Tlatoani. A flor y canto culture-bearer who invites us into the temple and psyche of the highbrow-hood. Through barrio analysis, academic insight, unyielding empathy, and profound introspection, WE STILL BE implores us to see, acknowledge, and tell the truth. These extremely personal palabras, prayers, and performances examine and interrogate the complexities of identity and celebrate the power of collective resilience. In a world that is obsessed with our erasure, this bold collection is a monument—a camino of cuentos that read like a litany of ritual, reminding us that WE STILL BE!
One time Paul told me about honesty in my poetry. I had sent him a bunch of bad poems I wrote when I was going through my break up with my previous lady and I will always remember him saying that being honest is the most sure fire way of connecting. The whole middle section of this book did that for me. Had me thinking about the men in my life, my mom’s unrelenting love, my first marriage.”
––Bobby LeFebre, Colorado Poet Laureate, writer, performer, cultural worker
“Paul Flores is incomparable in his tenacity and perseverance to bring our stories to life with his writings and poetry. All our complexities as a Latinx community are captured in this book. Our culture is embedded in his soul and WE STILL BE grateful that Paul Flores continues to inspire and innovate with such passion. ¡Siempre pa'lante!”
—Emanuel Xavier, author & activist