Get to know Rick Lara, a writer, father, veteran, and spoken word artist.
Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, and where were you born and raised? What’s a fun fact about your hometown?
I am 31 years old, I was born in Tampa Florida, and lived in Dover Florida for the first 20 years of my life before I left to join the Airforce in 2013. My home town is right next to Plant City Florida, which is world renowned for its strawberries and a corresponding strawberry festival.
As a spoken word poet who has planted his creative roots here in Las Vegas, how did you get into writing and sharing your poetry?
I have been writing since I was 14 years old. Being introduced to creative writing in middle school is what I attribute to the real start of this love for me. Learning about rhyme schemes, specifically alliteration, which I use in almost all of my poems, is something that captivated me. I later won a competition when I was 18, thus leading to me being on team Rockit, run by the amazing poet and Tampa Bay community leader, Walter Wally B Jennings. That’s where it really took off for me.
Out of all your poetry pieces, which one is the most meaningful to you, and why?
I’ve thought about this before and I don’t think I can narrow it down to one poem but 3.
1st, I wrote “Phoenix” in 15 minutes after having my spine fused from an injury on my first deployment. I had to learn how to walk again and I was very distraught about how my life changed.
2nd, “4 Letters” is about not only my 2nd deployment but someone else who is close to me struggling with the aftermath of their deployment. The 4 letters are PTSD, and how I struggled with my diagnosis not feeling like I was worthy of that when the person that I mentioned was really out there doing some harrowing things because he didn’t have a choice. I wrote that for every veteran who may not be able to verbalize complex emotions following a deployment.
3rd, I wrote “988” to raise awareness about suicide. I helped save 2 people from following through and I know so many people have unfortunately had the thought cross through their mind. 988 is the hotline similar to 911 for people who are having ideations, you are valuable and you are a priority so please remember that.
What do you think the Hispanic poets here in Vegas bring to the scene that is unique? How do you incorporate your Hispanic culture into your work?
I’m going to be honest, I only know of a few. I’m hopeful to start seeing more or being the person to inspire more people like me to start coming out to poetry events. I was actually fortunate enough to do a feature for Beyond The Neon poetry run by Ms Ayevee as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. I wrote a poem called “Spanglish” honoring my parents for their sacrifices as immigrants. I am literally the embodiment of the American dream.
My parents have literally been working their whole lives so the way I incorporate that is to always work hard because I’m lucky enough to do something that I love, they worked hard because they had no other choice.
You were recently published in the book Unsealed Change by The Unsealed Community. What was that process like? Do you have any plans for more written work to be published in the future?
I have nothing but good things to say about the unsealed. I submitted for the topic of “What change do you want to see in the world?” So I wrote “it starts with me” and it was selected! The Unsealed is run by Miss Lauren Brill who is an absolute beacon of light for the writing community. She noticed some of my work and reached out to me asking if I was interested in joining the unsealed. It’s a very small subscription ($7 a month) and there will be monthly writing contests that have a chance to be rewarded monetarily. There are also Zoom calls discussing our submissions and topics that end up being like a therapy session for a lot of people.
It’s a great way to meet like-minded creatives and that’s how I ended up on a billboard for an afternoon!
I actually have a couple of things already in work for some publishing in my future, I don’t want to reveal the details just yet because they are not solidified but the idea of holding my own book with my name on it is literally a dream come true. I’m hoping to make that happen sometime in 2024
Are there any poets or writers in general that inspire you? Drop some names!
Honestly, a lot of my fellow poets inspire me all the time, I’ll issue out poetry challenges to other poets and they will then respond with their own challenges to me.
Any poet can be inspiring and Vegas is FULL of wonderful poets. A few people that come to mind for me personally are Obbie West, Ms Ayevee, Demetri Manabat, Alyesha Wise, the entire Spotlight team, and Voices in Power teams. If I listed everyone that inspired me there wouldn’t be any more room in this interview lol
What else do you enjoy outside of writing and performing poetry?
So not only does Rick write but Rick Raves, I have been to (I’ve counted) over 120 shows. The rave scene is very similar to the poetry community. In the sense that no one is an outcast there and in fact, outcasts are welcomed. As long as you’re respectful to people’s space you can have some of the most fun you can ever imagine. I’m also very adventurous, I live by the motto, “If I have the time and money then why not,” just haven’t had a lot of either recently lol.
I also love hanging out with my family, specifically outside. My wife Alicia, my son Roman, My sister Ary and my 2 dogs Jones (full name (Mother Pupper Jones) and Oso make up the Lara household. We enjoy letting the dogs and baby run around at all the many beautiful parks that Las Vegas has to offer.
Vegas is often criticized for its lack of culture. What does Vegas culture mean to you?
That’s interesting to hear that, I have lived in 5 different states and another country (South Korea from June 2017-2018) and I actually think Vegas is probably one of the more cultured cities there is. Specifically, a certain district that has nothing to do with the strip. There’s something for any cup of tea on any given night. There are at least 4-5 poetry events on Any given week In Vegas, it’s actually surprisingly pretty kid friendly and the locals are pretty nice (as long as you’re not driving next to Them that is)
What advice do you have for those interested in getting into poetry? Especially, those who write but haven’t performed in front of an audience yet.
I’m glad you asked that, I’ve actually had 3 people approach me and inquire about just that. My advice to you is going to be what the amazing Monarch the poet told me during a workshop. “Write your material for you, we as the audience are blessed to have you share it with us.” I would deeply encourage everyone who writes anything to share it with the world. There may be poets or writers of different levels, but I can assure you, on any given day, anybody may be in need of your words. It may be the difference between reaching out to someone that they miss, burying a hatchet, or who knows you may even saving somebody’s life just from a line that they resonated with. Please please please share your work. Someone approached me after my feature and said “988” was them line for line, that was the ultimate compliment and I’m so proud of them for overcoming their thoughts.
Where can readers keep up with you online? Share your socials!
For the time being, I am only on Instagram, but I do have plans to take my work to the next level, so no matter the platform I can always be found at Rickwritesthepoet/Rick_writes. I will almost always answer all DM’s if you’re interested in booking me for a feature or just want to generally speak about poetry. I’m always open to that.
I genuinely believe in doing good in the world so if you’re reading this I love you and ask that you do Something nice for someone else and do 2 things nice for yourself,
Thank you so much for your time. I hope to see this magazine take off because I can tell that you love the literary arts. Thank you for this platform.
Check out his poem "988"
Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?
That’s a pretty weird question man, but then again maybe it’s not.
Because I have never had that thought, but maybe you have.
We have given ourselves no breathing room, no solace, no grace, Just running ourselves into the ground trying to keep pace.
Cuz we are constantly compounding more.
For our job, for our house, for our kids, for our spouse, But when it comes to ourselves we don’t think we deserve the effort.
We have become afflicted by an infection, an incessant insect, an earworm tunneling it’s way through our cochleas to deliver- its sinister- whisper. Do it!
“This world would be better with out you in it, In fact I doubt you’ll even be missed, It might hurt for a moment but I offer you eternal bliss,”
But I would be remiss to not mention, that sunlight and I have a face to face good day and good bye, as I- lay with my faithful partner sleep, she keeps me in peace, the pieces of paper in my journal -hold my words eternal, I have tried to change my mind and shift my attitude, I even find time to do things that fill me with gratitude.
You see I have tried every tactic , I have tried every trick, but it’s not as simple as you think because these people are sick!!
There’s a chemical imbalance in their mind trying convince them their time, should succumb to oblivion.
Money might be able to buy comfort but people become numb to the millions, Because Robin Williams.. felt fine! Avicii felt fine! Kurt Cobain felt fine! Chester Benningfield felt fine! But I don’t feel fine.
Because I Doubtfire would bring me to the next Level, whilst I’m looking for Nirvana in Linkin Park, that’s a deadly combination, a cold heart and thinking dark. I stare to long at these prescription pills that already make me sick, so I try to pour into these poems or pick at my guitar pick, I start not to care if my car drifts, into the next lane because it’s out of alignment, I’m starting to contemplate if a coffin would be comforting.. or considered a confinement.
Every day there’s a battle between /my will to live and l’aplle du vide. The call to the void, One way to avoid is something as simple as an invite, to a game night, because you have no idea what someone was thinking bout that same night,
Take out your phone, I mean it save this number: 988.
That’s the suicide hotline in case one day the weight becomes to great. But if does you freaking promise me that you remember this poem , on this date, because I mean it when I say because 50k Americans a year and 22 Veterans as a day, think it’s the only way, but I pray that you hear these words and see, that at least 1 more person wants you to live another day!
Because I would much rather hear your story, then put flowers on your grave.