The West Hollywood City Council has approved the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission’s recommendation to select Jen Cheng for the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate 2023-26. Cheng will serve a three-year term from October 2023 to October 2026.
Comments by the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission demonstrate why Jen Cheng should be the next City Poet Laureate: She has a deep connection to the City of West Hollywood; she lives in West Hollywood and is a frequent attendee of City programs and thus has a good sense of the community and City events; and she has participated in and organized events in the City, most notably as a co-lead for the very successful Pride Poets project, a project created for the WeHo Pride Arts Festival. The Pride Poets program results in thousands of custom poems written for the public at various pop-ups and a call-in telephone line every year.
Jen Cheng selection was in Agenda Item 2.W. of the consent calendar for the Regular City Council Meeting on Monday, September 18, 2023. The Item was approved unanimously by the council.
According to a City Staff report, The City of West Hollywood has a long tradition of supporting the literary arts as demonstrated through its continued funding of the WeHo Reads literary series, annual celebration of National Poetry Month in April, and the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate program. The City of West Hollywood first explored the idea of a Poet Laureate program in 2012.
The Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission approved the Poet Laureate Program, guidelines, and application at their April 24, 2014 meeting. City Council approved the Poet Laureate Program, guidelines, and application at its May 19, 2014 meeting. In 2014, the original length of term to be served was two years with an annual honorarium stipend of $1,500 per year. In the intervening years, the length of term has been lengthened to 3 years with an annual honorarium stipend of $15,000, which includes a $2,500 event budget, for an annual event planned and hosted by the Laureate.
Previous West Hollywood City Poet Laureates include:
- Steven Reigns, 2014-16
- Kim Dower, 2016-18
- Charles Flowers, 2018-20
- Brian Sonia-Wallace, 2020-2023
Previous Poet Laureates have originated initiatives such as the annual poetry month street banners honoring living poets, Citywide collaborative poems, and a poetry spa day.
Applications for the 2023-26 term were open from January 9 to April 4, 2023. Applicants were required to provide an artist’s narrative/statement; samples of their literary work; a description of their connection to and work performed in West Hollywood; and a description of proposed activities or programs they would propose if selected as City Poet Laureate.
The City received eight applications for the City Poet Laureate position. The City Poet Laureate Selection Committee reviewed the applications on April 18, 2023. The candidates were not in attendance at the meeting and were not interviewed as part of the process. Five of the applicants are West Hollywood residents. The Selection Committee, as noted in the scope of the program, is comprised of the Library Cultural Programming Committee, with the addition of the former and current West Hollywood City Poet Laureates.
The Committee also allows for one representative from the City’s Recreation Services Division. However, their assigned representative was unable to attend. The Selection Committee nominated Jen Cheng for the position of City Poet Laureate (2023-26). The Committee’s recommendation was forwarded to the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission for review at its April 27, 2023 meeting and was recommended for approval by the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission.
A City press release will likely officially announce Jen Cheng for the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate 2023-26. More information coming soon.