By Candace Hansen
Inspired by punk music and social justice, Librarian Stacy Russo produces zines that speak her truth through poetry and encourage others to do the same. After a 20 year hiatus, Russo self-published a number of poetry zines in 2014, edited a collection of radical protest essays by poet June Jordan titled Life as Activism, and broke ground on her new project Wildland: Interviews with Women from the 1980's Southern California Punk Rock Scene. While rooted in punk, Russo's optimism and personal mantra of Love Activism shape her writing and her work with students at Santa Ana College.
For Russo, zines are "like direct action when it comes to writing." She started writing young, developing a writer's consciousness as a teenage punk. After attending shows at legendary venues like Fenders and the Olympic Auditorium, Russo, along with some friends, decided to self-publish their writing by creating the Orange County based zine Anti-Establishment. "I was very political and angry," remembers Russo, "creating zines [as] a teenager really helped. I suppose it was cathartic." Their zine was carried in shops throughout Orange County, and from there Russo branched out, selling original poetry booklets through ads in Maximum Rock n Roll and Flipside during the early 1990's. She stopped producing zines in her early twenties, but felt compelled to return to the craft last year. "I'm at a point in my life where sharing what I write is very important to me" says Russo, "I hope to inspire others through my writing. That is what keeps me doing it."
Russo's current poetry is a blend of story telling and personal narrative. Poems a Librarian Wrote on Her Lunch Break weaves through reflections and tales of love, compassionately pulling the reader in. Young and Hungry in Paradise traces California ghosts with notes of Bukowski on a good day; gritty and real in the sweetest way. California Wine, Poems for Everybody, holds up to its namesake: singing the praises of workers and lovers alike, calling for the reader to recognize beauty in survival.
In addition to her writing, Russo heads the Library Technology Program at Santa Ana College. Last fall she organized Women's Words, a poetry event in Santa Ana honoring Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which featured 20 campus and community poets. Guided by her personal mantra of Love Activism, Russo plans to create more opportunities for students to engage in poetry, and has dreams of opening her own social justice-oriented bakery some day.
Twenty-Fifteen is shaping up to be a busy year for Russo with plans to table Long Beach Zine Fest, Claremont Zine Fest, and Riverside DIY Print Fest, as well as continue readings at Beyond Baroque in Venice Beach. She plans to wrap up her oral history collection Wildlands, which is her favorite project yet. "There are definitely some awesome stories," Russo attests, "Some of the women I interviewed are well known, such as Kira from Black Flag, Alice Bag, and Jennifer Finch from L7, but the majority are women like me who went to shows and immersed themselves in the scene."
Russo hopes that her work will serve as a call to action for readers to tell their stories. "I hope that people discover that they can write." Russo reminds folks "You don't need to write in complicated form or use big words to write poems. I mean, it is okay if you want to do that, but some of the best poetry is in everyday language." By emphasizing poetry in everyday existence, Russo challenges readers to become writers by telling them that their stories are worthy of being heard.
Find Stacy tabling with her zines at many fests this year, helping students at the reference desk at Santa Ana College, and on the web at www.etsy.com/shop/LibrarianStacyRusso
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