By Mike Soksen
In early 2017, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) will be announcing our city’s next official Poet Laureate. Dating back over a century, there is an illustrious poetic tradition in Los Angeles, which the Poet Laureate is expected to propagate.
According to the DCA’s website, the seven objectives of the program are to:
Enhance the presence and appreciation of poetry and the literary arts in Los Angeles; create a focal point for the expression of Los Angeles culture through the literary arts; raise awareness of the power of literature, poetry, and the spoken word; inspire an emerging generation of critical thinkers, writers, storytellers, and literary artists; bring the literary arts to people in Los Angeles who have limited access to poetry or have few opportunities for exposure to expressive writing; encourage both the reading and writing of literature; and, create a new body of literary works that commemorate the diversity and vibrancy of the L.A. region.
In other words, the Poet Laureate is a civic poet dedicated to serving the city and greater Los Angeles community. The deadline to apply for potential candidates has been extended to December 16
th at midnight.
The Legacy of Luis Rodriguez
Before spotlighting a handful of our city’s standout contemporary poets, As he recently wrote in a blog for the Los Angeles Public Library:
I spoke, read or facilitated workshops in over 40 libraries as far flung as Sylmar, Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills, Westwood, Pico-Union, Boyle Heights, Watts, Little Tokyo, and Wilmington. I addressed audiences at one of L.A. County’s juvenile halls, Los Padrinos; at Grand Performances of the California Plaza; at the Mark Taper Auditorium with storyteller Michael Meade and John Densmore of The Doors; at City Hall’s Council Chambers; during the Watts Jazz Festival; at Sirens Café in San Pedro; as speaker for the Poetry Convergence at the Skirball Museum; to support Endangered Languages at the Hammer Museum; and with the Poetry Circus at Griffith Park.
Los Angeles is truly lucky to have Luis Rodriguez, who has been selflessly serving the city since the late 1970s. Aside from being the author of 15 books, he co-owns and operates Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center and Bookstore in Sylmar. In addition to his public appearances, he has also published an anthology with Tia Chucha Press that includes 160 L.A. poets. Released in March 2016, the anthology “Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles,” was edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Daniel A. Olivas and Ruben J. Rodriguez. Poets in the collection include well-known seasoned scribes like Wanda Coleman, Kamau Daaood, Michael C. Ford, California State Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, Peter J. Harris, Ruben Martinez, S. Pearl Sharp, Amy Uyematsu and Terry Wolverton to up-and-coming younger bards like Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, F. Douglas Brown, Jessica Ceballos, Chiwan Choi, Francisco Escamilla, William Gonzalez, Douglas Kearney, Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Teka Lark, Karineh Mahdessian, Jeffrey Martin, Luivette Resto and Vickie Vertiz.
Rodriguez recently published a new collection of his own poems in early 2016 titled, “Borrowed Bones.” Printed by Curbstone Books/Northwestern University Press, the title is taken from an excerpt of a Pablo Neruda work. Some of the poems include, “Love Poem to Los Angeles,” and “Love Poem to Trini,” his piece honoring his wife. Another notable section in this collection are a cycle of poems called, “People’s Sonnets.” Written in iambic pentameter and following the form of the Shakespearean Sonnet, these sonnets are directly relevant to the 21
st Century and reflect on America, God, war, gentrification and the power of poetry. He exclaims, The power of poetry is its stance,
page or stage, electrifying or trance.
Rodriguez’s poetry fuses accessibility and verisimilitude and for this reason, I have used these sonnets and other pieces of his work in my courses that include AP English students, 11
th graders, 12 th graders and college freshmen. Last spring Rodriguez visited my school sharing these sonnets and other poems in an assembly. Needless to say, the students left both inspired and empowered. As Martin Espada writes in the Foreword of “Borrowed Bones,” “Long before he was named Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Luis J. Rodriguez was doing what a laureate should do: serve the community.” Read Rest of Article Here.