The West Hollywood Gateway, located at 7100 Santa Monica Boulevard, showcases poets for National Poetry Month each year. WeHo residents can encounter poetry in their daily lives with excerpts from poems currently being showcased on the Gateway’s main digital billboard. This year, the gateway added three new poets. Former City Poet Laureate Steven Reigns is highlighting each poet to add to the profiles he made last year. Below, is a Q&A with poet Jeremy Ra.
Name: Jeremy Ra
Poetic works: Another Way of Loving Death (Moon Tide Press 2023)
How many years in Los Angeles?
I have been living in LA County for about 20 years and in WEHO proper for about 10.
What can you tell us about the excerpt on the billboard?
An image of drowning in the ocean lingered with me for a long time like a waking dream. As I rolled the image over in my head (as part of being a poet is interpreting my own vagaries), I realized that the fear evoked by the image was one beyond physical fear. The water and its pull came to mean the haunting state of creation that is suspended between immanence and transcendence. I wrote these lines wanting to capture that precious and awful gift.
Does the West Hollywood Gateway or WEHO have any significance for you?
Having lived in WEHO for 10 years, visiting West Hollywood Gateway has become a part of my routine. I love getting lunch at its many restaurants (including the reliable Crazy Rock’n Sushi and the famed Formosa Cafe) while waiting for my car wash.
When and how did poetry find you?
I cannot pinpoint when, but there’s a popular Korean poem that I grew up with by Cheon Sang-byeong whose ending lines go: “When the field trip to this earth comes to an end, I will tell the heavens that it was beautiful.” (I provided my own translation here because I don’t believe there’s a standard one.) This poem, like a lot of great poems, looks upon the world with defiant eyes intent on finding beauty in the mundane, and that cool courage stuck with me from a young age. Then I discovered Sylvia Plath in my teens, and I had no questions left as to what I was meant to write.
What has been a big poetry career moment?
Receiving the Morton Marcus Poetry Prize meant a lot to me because Santa Cruz has become an unexpectedly magical fount of inspiration ever since I went to the Catamaran Conference – I had the immense pleasure of getting to know many poets that I respect and admire post-ceremony.
What has teaching writing meant to you?
I do not teach poetry (at least not yet), but I am in a lot of workshops, and there’s no greater joy than being around people who want to refine that most beautiful of things called poems.
How can people find out more about you and your workshops? Instagram: @hyperphantom, Facebook: Jeremy YS Ra, https://www.freshoutofcontext.com/