The West Hollywood Gateway, located at 7100 Santa Monica Boulevard, on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, is showcasing five poets for National Poetry Month 2022. WeHo residents can encounter poetry in their daily lives with excerpts from poems currently being showcased on the Gateway’s main digital billboard.
This is a prominent celebration of poetry that has taken place for several years at this location. Kristen Weidemann with the West Hollywood Gateway expressed her support, “West Hollywood Gateway takes great pride in celebrating National Poetry Month. A time where we can honor poetry and its extraordinary legacy as well as support poets and their contributions.”
Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. Not only are all 5 poets fixtures in the poetry, they also promote poetry within their community and teach writing workshops. WEHOtimes had each poet introduce themselves and talk a bit about their work and connection to WEHO.
WeHo Times will feature all five poets during National Poetry Month 2022, starting with West Hollywood’s first Poet Laureate, Steven Reigns.
Name: Steven Reigns
Poetic works: A Quilt for David, Inheritance, Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat, Ignited, In the Room, Cartography
How many years in Los Angeles? 17 years
What can you tell us about the excerpt on the billboard?
I spent ten years researching and writing about Florida dentist David Acer and the accusations that he infected patients with HIV. It is a terrible story about gay scapegoating and villainization. The line on the billboard is from the final poem in my book. It is when I stood in the previous dental office where Dr Acer saw his patients.
Does the West Hollywood Gateway or WEHO have significance for you?
A few months after I moved to LA, I was feeling quite lonely and isolated. One afternoon I went to Target at West Hollywood Gateway to pick up somethings and ran into 3 people I knew. I realized how small of a town LA is and how in a short time I had started to be a part of the community. It was a big moment for me in terms of feeling comfortable or a sense of belonging in LA. I love having lived in West Hollywood for so long and witness so many changes and evolutions. WEHO has always been such a progressive city.
When and how did poetry find you?
Writing seemed like the organic extension of my love of reading. I had my first poems published when I was 11. I wasn’t at all prodigious, it was a publication for elementary school children and I suspect they printed all submissions. However, it was one of the first times I got recognition for something and received praise.
What has been a big poetry career moment?
A Quilt for David being published by City Lights has felt like an arrival. It’s a publishing house I’ve always been aware of and in awe of. The back cover also has blurbs from writers I’ve admired for decades. Another highlight was being the first City Poet Laurette of West Hollywood and seeing projects I started, like the lamppost banners, continue to grow.
What has teaching writing meant to you?
Poetry has been one of the greatest loves of my life. It is a joy to connect people with the pleasure of writing poetry. I’ve taught autobiographical poetry workshops for over 20 years around the country to queer youth groups, people living with HIV, and LGBTQ seniors. I’ve always wanted to help marginalized people find their voice and clame their experience.
How can people find out more about you and your workshops?