The City of West Hollywood announced the selection of Jen Cheng as the next City Poet Laureate, serving from October 2023 to 2026. The selection was approved by the City Council of the City of West Hollywood at its regular meeting on Monday, September 18, 2023.
An installation event will take place on Sunday, October 22, 2023 at 5 p.m. in the Plummer Park Community Center, Rooms 5 and 6, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. The event will also feature 2021-22 Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Lynne Thompson and former and current West Hollywood City Poets Laureate Steven Reigns and Brian Sonia-Wallace. RSVPs are requested, but not required, at https://WeHoPoetJenChengInstallation.eventbrite.com
The selection comes following a rigorous selection process led by the City Poet Laureate Selection Committee, which is comprised of representatives of the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division and Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, the LA County Library’s West Hollywood branch, the Friends of the West Hollywood Library, and former and current West Hollywood City Poet Laureates.
Jen Cheng is a poet with a profound connection to the City of West Hollywood, where she resides. Her deep-rooted involvement in the local community and her active participation in various City programs have given her an insightful understanding of the vibrant and diverse West Hollywood community and identity.
One of the standout achievements that captured the attention of the City Poet Laureate Selection Committee is her leadership role in the highly successful “Pride Poets” project. This innovative initiative was created and headed by current City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the WeHo Pride Arts Festival (at the time known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival) and has resulted in the creation of thousands of custom poems written for the public during various pop-up events and through an annual call-in telephone line.
As the newly appointed City Poet Laureate, Jen Cheng will serve as a cultural ambassador, using her gift of words and community organizing to celebrate the City’s arts scene, diverse population, and myriad of stories that define West Hollywood. Over the next three years, she will engage with the community through poetry, participate in public events, and promote the literary arts throughout the City. Jen Cheng’s selection as the City Poet Laureate aligns perfectly with West Hollywood’s ongoing commitment to promoting art, culture, and community engagement.
Since 2019, Jen Cheng has been writing poems for West Hollywood neighbors and visitors during WeHo Pride as a member of Pride Poets and as a typewriter poet with arts and community events around the Los Angeles area. With roots in social justice activism, she has been a performance poet and local cultural events producer, and recently produced two WeHo Pride 2023 events to celebrate stories from LGBTQ elders with new souvenirs of poetry in turn building community bonds with intergenerational connection between older adults and younger poets.
Her work and poetry has been showcased as part of the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Reads series, VCP Socal, and Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station bG Gallery. During the COVID-19 social isolation era of 2020, she began writing dog poems for her West Hollywood neighbors and hosted a virtual party to bring humor and cheer to dog lovers. As a culture creator, Jen blends her East-West perspectives into a new form, Feng Shui Poetry, infusing five element wellness concepts into poetry. Her upcoming book, Braided Spaces, has themes of immigrant displacement, critical race feminism, and queer musings by a Chinese American eldest daughter. Jen’s interviews and poems can be found in outlets such as the Beverly Press, Queer Slam, and on KPFK’s Poets Cafe. She is a 2023 California Arts Council Fellow.
The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Arts Grants, City Poet Laureate, Drag Laureate, Free Theatre in the Parks, Human Rights Speaker Series, Library Exhibits, WeHo Pride Arts Festival, Summer Sounds + Winter Sounds, Urban Art (permanent public art), and WeHo Reads. For more information about City of West Hollywood arts programming, please visit www.weho.org/arts.