How WeHo Celebrates National Poetry Month
The City of West Hollywood will celebrate National Poetry Month in April with a variety of events and exhibits honoring poets and the art of poetry.
Throughout April, the City of West Hollywood will honor living poets by featuring selections of their poetry onstreet pole bannersalong Santa Monica Boulevard. Currently, 46 poets are honored and each year the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate selects two additional poets to be honored. This year’s recipients are the Presidential Inauguration PoetAmanda Gormanand Da Poetry LoungeShihan Van Cleef.
Amanda Gormanis the youngest presidential inaugural poet in United States history. She is a committed advocate for the environment, racial equality and gender justice. After graduating cum laude from Harvard University, she now lives in her hometown of Los Angeles. Amanda was one of the winners of Variety Power of Women, one of the cover stars ofGlamourWomen of the Year, and one ofTIMEmagazine women of the year. The special edition of his inaugural poem,The hill we climbwas published in March 2021. Her first picture book,Change singswas released in September 2021 and its collection of poetryCall us what we wearin December 2021.
Shihan Van Cleefis the co-founder of Da Poetry Lounge, the largest weekly poetry slam in the United States, and the director of the LA Get Down Festival of hip-hop and spoken word, which takes place at the Greenway Court Theater in Fairfax High. School and is funded by an Arts Grant from the City of West Hollywood. Shihan was raised on New York’s Lower East Side by his father who would take his son to Puerto Rico every summer so he could understand the importance of where he comes from. He is well known for his debut on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and is a National Poetry Slam champion.
AtMonday, April 4, 2022at 6 p.m., the City of West Hollywood City Council will announce, at its regular meeting, a National Poetry Memorial Monthproclamation, which will be received by Brian Sonia-Wallace, Poet Laureate of West Hollywood City. The presentation will be viewable on the city’s WeHoTV YouTube channel. The West Hollywood City Poet Laureate will also present a new poem he created and titledWe scream(based on the poemTo screamby Allen Ginsberg). The text of the poem is below.
AtWednesday, April 6, 2022at 6 p.m., as part of the City’sWeHo bedseries, there will be areading poemsfeaturing four transgender poets in a reading and dialogue about the future and intersections of science fiction and poetry, activism and language. Curated and hosted by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace, readers includeRyka AokiLos Angeles-based poet and author of the new science fiction novelUncommon starlight,Harry Josephine GilesScottish poet and author ofOrcadia Deep Wheelin conversation with young poets, as well as with organizersSimba the poet(Nashville) andAva Dadvand(from Los Angeles, currently writing and studying at Yale). The event, titledWeHo reads: Trans | Future | Poetic, will take place online and is free to attend. For more information and to RSVP: www.weho.org/wehoreads. The event can be viewed on the City of West Hollywood Arts Division YouTube channel.
Throughout April, with the support of an arts grant from the City of West Hollywood Arts Division, Greenway Arts Alliance will present the annual LA Get Down Festival. The festival is a celebration of hip hop and spoken word, presented in association with Da Poetry Lounge. For more information, visit http://greenwaycourttheatre.org/lagetdown2022.
The City of West Hollywood launched its City Poet Laureate program in 2014. The City Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador for West Hollywood’s vibrant literary culture and leads the promotion of poetry in the city, including assisting with its annual celebration of the National Poetry Month. The City’s current Poet Laureate, Brian Sonia-Wallace, began his appointment in October 2020 following the City of West Hollywood’s third Poet Laureate, Charles Flowers (2018-2020). Past City Poet winners include Kim Dower (2016-2018), who launched the Citywide Collaborative Poem, the first of which was animated in a five-minute video: “I Sing The Body West Hollywood” and Steven Reigns, West Hollywood’s first. City Poet Laureate (2014-2016), who implemented the city’s annual Poetry Month Street Banner Project, which honors living poets and brings poetry snippets to the streets of West Hollywood.
Brian Sonia-Wallace has been writing poetry for strangers and neighbors on the streets of West Hollywood and at City of West Hollywood events since the 2014 WeHo Reads season. A social practice poet straddling the boundaries between literature and Community Involvement, her 2020 debut from Harper Collins,Foreign Poetry: What I Learned Traveling America With a Typewriterwas hailed as “full of optimism and wide-eyed wonder” bytheNew York Times. He teaches creative writing in the UCLA Extension Writers program and Get Lit – Words Ignite. In 2019, Sonia-Wallace received a grant from the City of West Hollywood’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival (now known, as of 2022, as WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival) to create Pride Poets, a project who brought poets to typewriters. on the streets of West Hollywood to create over 700 original works based on one-on-one interactions, and in 2020 brought together over 100 LGBTQ poets for virtual performances during the COVID-19 quarantine. Pride Poets has been featured in publicationsPrideandthe lawyerand Sonia-Wallace’s work has additionally been profiled bytheNew York Times, The Guardian, The Poetry Foundation, NPR, ABC7andTelemundo. In 2021, Brian Sonia-Wallace was selected as one of the recipients of the Poets Laureate Fellowship by the Academy of American Poets in conjunction with his role as West Hollywood City Poet Laureate. The Academy has provided each of the 23 Fellows with $50,000 each, and more than $100,000 in total to 14 local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that have agreed to support the projects proposed by the Fellows, including local organization Being Alive, which supported Sonia-Wallace’s project.
For more information on City of West Hollywood National Poetry Month activities or the City of West Hollywood Poet Laureate Program, please contact Mike Che, Arts Coordinator for the City of West Hollywood, at (323) 848-6377 [email protected] or visit www.weho. org/community/arts-and-culture/literary-arts/poetry-month. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.