Rudy Francisco

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Rudy Francisco
Rudy Francisco.jpg
BornJuly 27, 1982 (Age 36)
San Diego, California
EducationAlliant International University
OccupationSpoken Word Poet

Rudy K. Francisco (Born July 27, 1982) is an American spoken word poet and poetry author.[1][2][3][4][5] He has won several Poetry Slams and written four books of poetry: Getting Stitches, Scratch, No Gravity, and Helium.[6] He made an appearance on TV One's Verses and Flow and performed his spoken-word poem "Complainers" as well as "Rifle" on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[7][8][9][10]

Early life[edit]

Rudy Francisco was born and raised in San Diego, California and is of Belizean decent.[11][12] He wrote a love poem as part of a writing assignment in his senior year of high school and received high marks for it.[3][13] Rudy did not want to read this poem himself so his friend read it out loud for him instead.[14] His teacher suggested he should keep up with his writing.[14][13]

Francisco became more involved with spoken word as he watched HBO's Def Poetry. He also began to go to open mics in his area until they were closed due to gentrification[9]. He then, with a group of local poets and activists called 'Collective Purpose,' opened a open mic known as Elevated in San Diego, which has been open for over ten years.[3]

Rudy attended Alliant International University in San Diego.[14] He went on to complete his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and pursue a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology.[14] Rudy was also an RA at his school and started hosting open mics.[14][13] He got invited to other open mics and met other poets through them.[14] As he became more involved with performing, he began to miss school a lot due to the demand of travel in order to perform.[14] Rudy has said that it was a very hard decision for him to decide between school and poetry, but he was in love with poetry more than his program.[14] He worked as a statistical analyst and completed three years of a Ph.D. program before quitting to do poetry full time.[1][14]

Poetry career[edit]

Rudy first got into performance poetry after going to many open mics and also after watching a show that featured the poet Shihan and fell in love with the style afterwards.[14] He also says reading the book The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten was pivotal moment in his life as a poet.[15] At first, Rudy has said that he thought that performing your poems was weird since you were being judged for your art.[14] Now, he enjoys getting a score at the end of competition performances.[14] He found that slam combines his two favorite things: writing and performing.[14] Rudy has performed in many competitions, as well as shows all around the country and out of the states.[16][14][13]

Rudy went on to write his debut poetry book Getting Stitches in 2013, Scratch in 2014, No Gravity in 2015, and his first full length book Helium in 2017 which was published by Button Poetry. It took Rudy Francisco a year and a half to write the collection of 58 poems.[14] Helium received positive reviews.[6][17][18] When asked what Helium means in an interview, Francisco states that "helium allows you to defy gravity" and “in a lot of ways poetry always gave me that temporary escape.”[14] Themes for Helium include: race, class, gender, love and self reflection.[14] His style for his poems encompass "personal and political narratives through an honest and humorous approach."[11]But Francisco say, "he is not finished yet, he is still learning."[19]

Rudy Francisco is the founder and current coach of the San Diego Poetry Slam Team, which won the 2017 National Poetry Slam Championship.[19][20]

Rudy Francisco performed his spoken-word poem "Complainers" on his first appearance on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on March 1, 2018.[7][8] Rudy Francisco is the first to do a full length poem on the Tonight Show. Social media has contributed to the success of Francisco, he has said it is very important to him and he is unsure if he would be able to do his poetry career full time without it.[14] Many of his poems are on Youtube, some of which, like "Scars/To the New Boyfriend" have accumulated over a million views.[21] He has also grown a large following on Instagram accounting for over 140,000 followers.[22]

Personal life[edit]

When Rudy describes himself in an interview with Book Circle Online, he notes himself to be very competitive and that is why he loves slam poetry so much. He has said he loves competition and performing.[14] They help him improve and it brings out the best in him.[14] Francisco also says that the slam community allows one be a part of a family, going on to say “some of my closest friends are people I have been on teams with or competed against. It is what keeps me coming back around.”[14]

Francisco has a two-year-old daughter.[14]

Rudy Francisco performing Rifle on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Tours and events[edit]

As of 2018, Rudy Francisco previously toured in the UK this past May/June.[16] In early June, Button Poetry made the announcement on Facebook that the performances scheduled for India with Rudy Francisco and Sabrina Benaim was cancelled due to "scheduling and organizational issues."[23] Rudy is also performed at the 2018 slam poetry competition taking place in Chicago representing the San Diego team again in August.[14] Rudy went on tour in October in the UK with fellow poets Neil Hilborn and Sabrina Benaim.[16] On April 30th, 2019 Rudy Francisco performed at Beltway Poetry Slam in Washington, D.C. He will be the host city coordinator for the Individual World Poetry Slam taking place in Southern California taking place on May 13th, 2019.[14] Rudy has said that he hopes to rent out venues close to home in order to have his own shows.[14]

Books of poetry[edit]

  • Getting Stitches (2013)
  • Scratch (2014)
  • No Gravity (2015)
  • Helium (2017)


Year Title Notes
2013 Verses and Flow[10] Season 3 Episode 8
2018 - 2019 The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon 2 episodes
Spoken Word Videos
Year Title Channel Notes
2012 Scars/ To the New Boyfriend speakeasynyc
A Lot Like You Marc Bacani
2013 Sons Button Poetry With Terisa Siagatonu
2014 Complainers
2015 My Honest Poem

Poetry awards[edit]

  • 2007 San Diego Grand Slam Champion
  • 2007 Poet of the People Slam Champion
  • 2008 Member of the Hollywood Poetry Slam Team
  • 2009 National Underground Poetry Individual Champion
  • 2009 3rd place in the Individual World Poetry Slam
  • 2010 La Poloma slam Champion
  • 2010 Chico Invitational Slam Champion
  • 2010 San Diego Grand Slam Champion
  • 2010 San Francisco Grand Slam Champion
  • 2010 Member of the San Diego Poetry Slam Team (Regional Champion/6th ranked team in the nation)
  • 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Slam Champion
  • 2017 National Poetry Slam Champion (as part of the San Diego Poetry Slam Team)[24]


  1. ^ a b "Rudy Francisco Shares Truth in Poetry". The Daily Nexus. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  2. ^, Parker Reed. "Rudy Francisco performance review". Iowa State Daily. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  3. ^ a b c "Rudy Francisco Takes Spoken Word to New Heights – Voice and Viewpoint". Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  4. ^ Francisco, Rudy. "Page Info". Facebook. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  5. ^ Button Poetry (2015-11-23), Rudy Francisco - "My Honest Poem" (Button Live), retrieved 2018-07-30
  6. ^ a b Chaney, Sam. "National Poetry Month: must-read contemporary poetry". UNF Spinnaker. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  7. ^ a b Spoken-Word Poet Rudy Francisco Performs His Poem "Complainers", NBC, 2018-03-02, retrieved 2018-04-17
  8. ^ a b "Darren Criss Appears On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"". Headline Planet. 2018-03-01. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  9. ^ a b The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2019-04-18), Spoken-Word Poet Rudy Francisco Performs His Poem "Rifle", retrieved 2019-05-12
  10. ^ a b WALTON ISAACSON (2013-10-24), Lexus Verses and Flow Season 3: Fiveology's Performance, retrieved 2019-05-13
  11. ^ a b "From a Stutter to 'Tonight Show': How Rudy Francisco Became a Poetry Slam Champion". L.A. TACO. 2018-08-29. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  12. ^ "Poet Rudy Francisco Visits SMCM". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  13. ^ a b c d "Interview: Rudy Francisco, The Artist Room - CMYK". CMYK. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Book Circle Online (2018-03-29), Rudy Francisco discusses "Helium" | Book Circle Online, retrieved 2018-08-05
  15. ^ Evan Sanford (2016-04-09), Inside the Studio with Evan Sanford - Rudy Francisco Interview, retrieved 2019-05-12
  16. ^ a b c "Rudy Francisco". Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  17. ^ "Reaching an emotional high with "Helium"". Pipe Dream. 2017-11-27. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  18. ^ "Button Poetry's Rudy Francisco's first book triumphs". The Crow's Nest. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  19. ^ a b "Congratulations to San Diego Poetry Slam, the 2017 National Poetry Slam Champions! – Poetry Slam Inc". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  20. ^ "6 Teams You Don't Want To Miss At the National Poetry Slam". 303 Magazine. 2017-08-02. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  21. ^ speakeasynyc (2012-03-18), Rudy Francisco "Scars/To the New Boyfriend", retrieved 2019-05-12
  22. ^ "Rudy Francisco (@rudyfrancisco) • Instagram photos and videos". Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  23. ^ "Button Poetry". Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  24. ^ "San Diego Poetry Slam Team Celebrates National Championship Win – Voice and Viewpoint". SD Voice. Retrieved 2018-04-17.