The City of West Hollywood will celebrate National Poetry Month 2023 in April with exciting events, including a poetry ‘spa day,’ and public exhibitions honoring poets and the art of poetry. National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world.
On Monday, April 3, 2023 at 6 p.m., the City Council of the City of West Hollywood will, at its regular meeting, issue a commemorative National Poetry Month proclamation, which will be received by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace. The presentation will be viewable on the City’s WeHoTV YouTube Channel. The West Hollywood City Poet Laureate will also debut a new poem he has created which celebrates the City of West Hollywood. titled Any Day of the Week. The text of the poem can be found below.
On Friday, April 7, 2023, Poetry Walk, a public art installation, will be installed on the traffic median of Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny and Almont Drives. This temporary public art installation displays poetry next to pre-existing empty concrete plinths where sculptures are usually displayed. The poetry excerpts reflect on absence, longing, and that which is unseen or uncelebrated. Contributing poets are current and former West Hollywood City Poets Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace, Steven Reigns, Kim Dower and Charles Flowers; and Tonya Ingram, a young poet who passed away in December 2022. The Poetry Walk can be experienced as written word or by listening to audio recordings. Members of the public are invited to submit their own short poems reflecting on absence, longing, and the unseen, and select poems will be posted on the City website. For more information please visit: www.weho.org/community/arts-and-culture/visual-arts/art-on-the-outside/poetry-walk.
On Tuesday, April 25, 2023 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., as part of the City’s Lesbian Speaker Series, there will be a panel discussion titled: I See You, which features lesbian and queer identified artists talking about visibility in the arts. The panel features traci kato-kiriyama, a multidisciplinary artist and poet who recently published a new poetry book titled Navigating With(out) Instruments; Gina Young, writer, director, performer and creator of SORORITY, a new works salon; Diana Diaz, co-founder of the Queer Mercado craft fair; Britt Westveer, an artist who will have a new mural on West Hollywood City Hall this June; and Dorothy Randall Gray, who is one of two new poets featured on the City of West Hollywood’s National Poetry Month banners this year. This event is free to attend and takes place in the West Hollywood City Council Chambers, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. For more information please visit: www.weho.org/services/social-services/lgbt-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-services/lesbian-speaker-series
On Wednesday, April 26, 2023 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., as part of the City’s WeHo Reads series, there will be Lounging With Poets, the first West Hollywood poetry ‘spa day’ and reading. Members of the public are invited to ‘lounge with a poet’ at the Respite Deck of the new West Hollywood Aquatic and Recreation Center, located at 8750 El Tovar Place. From 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., guests will receive a menu of services to have individual, one-on-one experiences with poets, ranging from cucumber poetry facials to poetry speed dating. At 7:30 p.m., join us for a sunset reading where we will hear poets share their words in a ritual closing and celebration of National Poetry Month.
Poets participating at the WeHo Reads: Lounging With Poets event:
- Kim Dower, second West Hollywood City Poet Laureate, has published four acclaimed collections of poetry, including the Gold Ippy Award winning collection Sunbathing on Tyrone Power’s Grave. She has been nominated for four Pushcarts, is widely anthologized, and teaches writing workshops for Antioch University, the West Hollywood Library, and UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. When she was West Hollywood City Poet Laureate she created the collaborative Citywide Poem I Sing the Body West Hollywood.
- Charles Flowers, third West Hollywood City Poet Laureate, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vanderbilt University and received his MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon. His poems have appeared in Puerto Del Sol, Barrow Street, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Assaracus.
- Steven Reigns, first West Hollywood City Poet Laureate, is a poet and educator whose newest book A Quilt for David (City Lights, 2021) is the product of ten years of research regarding dentist David Acer’s life. When he was West Hollywood City Poet Laureate he inaugurated the annual Poetry Month Street Pole Banner program.
- Brian Sonia-Wallace, current West Hollywood City Poet Laureate, is the author of the memoir The Poetry of Strangers (Harper Collins, 2020). His other publications include the chapbook, I sold these poems, now I want them back (Yak Press, 2016), a chapter on poetry-as-placemaking for Art & The City (Routledge, 2018), and writing in The Guardian, LitHub, and Rolling Stone. In 2019, he received a City of West Hollywood “One City One Pride” Arts Grant to create Pride Poets, a project that brought poets on typewriters to the streets of West Hollywood to create more than 700 original works based on one-on-one interactions. In 2021, in his role as West Hollywood City Poet Laureate, he was selected as one of the Poets Laureate Fellowship recipients by the Academy of American Poets which provided $50,000 to support literary work and a civic project, for which Brian partnered with Being Alive, the HIV service organization.
- Jen Cheng is a founding member of the Pride Poets team which was created as a City of West Hollywood “One City One Pride” Arts Grant funded project. Since falling in love with the art of typewriter poetry, Jen has a collection of dog humor poems and enjoys writing for birthday parties, corporate events, and other LGBTQ events.
- Linda Ravenswood is the 2022 Edwin Markham Prize in Poetry recipient and the founding Editor in Chief of The Los Angeles Press. A 2022 Oxford Poetry Prize winner, Linda is published by Eyewear London / The Black Spring Press Group (January 2023) and FlowerSong Press (forthcoming 2023).
WeHo Reads is a literary series presented by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division and produced by BookSwell. Additional support is provided by UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and Poets & Writers, with media partnerships from Bookshop.org, Book Soup, and Los Angeles Review of Books. This event is free to attend and RSVPs are requested. For more information and to RSVP please visit: www.weho.org/wehoreads.
Throughout the month of April, the City of West Hollywood will honor living poets by featuring selections of their poetry on street pole banners along Santa Monica Boulevard. Currently there are 47 poets honored, and each year the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate selects two additional poets to honor. This year’s honorees are Dorothy Randall Gray and Charles Jensen:
- Dorothy Randall Gray is a teacher, poet, global activist and author of the bestseller, Soul Between The Lines: Freeing Your Creative Spirit Through Writing, (Avon/HarperCollins) as well as Taste of Tamarinda, Muse Magic, Family, Creative Rituals for Daily Living, and The Passion Collection. Her work has also been published in such periodicals and anthologies as: the New York Times, Drum Voices, Heart&Soul, SisterFire, HealthQuest, and Conditions. A former Poet-in-Residence at Hunter College, NYU faculty member, and commentator for National Public Radio, Dorothy is founder of the Heartland Institute for Transformation. In her commitment to global healing, she has served as a UNESCO delegate and conducted educational supply campaigns for African schools.
- Charles Jensen is the author of the poetry collection Nanopedia and six chapbooks of poems. He is the recipient of the 2020 Outwrite Nonfiction Chapbook Award, the 2019-2020 Cultural Trailblazer designation from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the 2018 Zócalo Poetry Prize, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, the 2007 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award, and an Artist’s Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. He founded the online poetry magazine LOCUSPOINT, which explored creative work on a city-by-city basis, and is currently the director of the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.
On weekends during the month of April, with the support of an arts grant from the City of West Hollywood, Greenway Arts Alliance will present the 7th Annual LA Get Down Festival which will feature two poetry slams organized by Da Poetry Lounge along with other programming. More information and links to purchase tickets for the LA Get Down Festival can be found at https://greenwaycourttheatre.org/la-get-down.
The City of West Hollywood began its City Poet Laureate program in 2014. The West Hollywood City Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador of West Hollywood’s vibrant literary culture and leads the promotion of poetry in the City, including assisting with its annual celebration of National Poetry Month 2023. The City is accepting applications until April 4, 2023, for the 2023-26 West Hollywood City Poet Laureate position.