July 2, 2022 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Meet WeHo’s New Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace

Brian Sonia-Wallace has been named West Hollywood’s 4th City Poet Laureate making him the youngest person to occupy the role. 

Making his start, Sonia-Wallace took to the streets with his typewriter, leading to unlikely residencies from Amtrak to the Mall of America and eventually to his debut memoir, The Poetry of Strangers (Available on Amazon) about traveling the country writing poems for thousands of strangers based on their stories. His LGBTQ+ poetry group, Pride Poets, has written poems for over 800 custom love poems for people over the last two Prides.

Inspired by his mother to get into poetry at an early age, Sonia-Wallace explains how he struggled with ten-finger typing so she made him type a page a day. He quickly realized that, with poetry, the pages fill up faster because of the use of line breaks. Later in life, while still in the closet, he describes having to write “everything in a layer of metaphor” in his journal after suspecting his mother of going through it. 

In 2014 Sonia-Wallace set a goal for himself to pay rent with his poetry and from then on started writing professionally. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, his writing has had to adjust just like the rest of the world. Writing about Zoom, distance and community while taking inspiration from long walks. 

Pre-pandemic 90% of his work was events. Everything from weddings to corporate parties, while also traveling a couple of months out of the year around the country.

When asked what he’s working on during the pandemic Sonia-Wallace said,

“I’ve been teaching over Zoom, sitting with teenagers and their poetry and adults with their life stories, helping them craft the emotion of this time into words. I’ve also been taking a ton of classes! I was a travelpunk kid who didn’t want anyone to tell him what to write about, and in quarantine prompts and support have been a comfort.”

Applying for the WeHo poet laureate position as soon as it started, building a relationship with the city and starting his own LGBTQ+ poetry group Brian wanted to clarify what that position meant to him saying would like “to build pathways for artistic sustainability, for new voices to be able to enter our cultural discourse, and for every WeHo resident and visitor to be able to engage with this sort of naughtiness with words.” 

Sonia-Wallace hopes to connect existing poets and poetry communities to be able to support each other and grow together. Encouraging others to go to open mics based in LA (which are  now operating online due to the pandemic) where poets can go to read their work and hear their work read. 

Sonia-Wallace also gave us a sneak peek inside his writing process, 

“I have two writing practices, a public and private one. In public practice, writing custom poems on the typewriter, I get in an improv flow, a trance state of saying yes to whatever comes, yes to my mistakes, yes to everything the person commissioning the poem tells me and my own observations of them. These poems are born all at once, though every now and then I’ll harvest lines from them for my private writing and vice versa.

The private poems are the ones *I* need to write, work through my own thoughts and stories, either therapy or play. Some of these I’ll polish and labor over until they’re ready to share, some sit for ages. Lots of the ideas for these come while stuck in traffic, something about that state of lazy attention. In The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, the main character divines truth using the titular device by entering a space of open curiosity, not reaching for answers but letting her brain be empty in order to receive them. I think that state accurately describes the mindset I try to enter to write poems, allowing images and language in my subconscious to bubble through and surprise me.”

To those who say poetry isn’t for them Brian says, “Poems are like music — you have to find your genre. But to say ‘I don’t like poetry’ is as absurd as saying ‘I don’t like music.’ You just have to find the poem that gets you.”

Read Brian’s latest stay-at-home-holiday poem for West Hollywood, and watch the video: https://youtu.be/IVwN5HflB3c

Sonia-Wallace will be curating a new column sharing uplifting poems by LGBTQ+ poets. 

He will also be hosting a number of events which he will announce in future columns, starting with a roundtable for folks hosting LGBTQ+ literary spaces, or LGBTQ+ spaces that would like to host literary components, on Jan.10th, 2021. RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lgbtq-literary-spacemakers-in-quarantine-roundtable-tickets-131966462241

To consult with Brian on your writing life email rentpoet@gmail.com or visit his website: http://briansoniawallace.com/

Related Posts

Happening Now: West Hollywood’s LGBTQ+ Arts Festival

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne Happening now through the end of June, WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival celebrates the artistic contributions of...

California Trans Child Molester Gets 2 Years In Juvenile Facility

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

A Los Angeles County judge ordered Hannah Tubbs, a transgender California woman, to serve two years in a juvenile facility...

Homeless Initiative Meeting In West Hollywood

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood’s Homeless Initiative works to address homelessness with a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, collaborative response. It’s estimated that...

WeHo Premieres the ‘Moving Image Media Art’ Exhibition Series

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood announces the premiere of the Moving Image Media Art (MIMA) program and the worldwide debut...

LA Street Will Potentially Be Named After Anti-LGBTQ Singer

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

A portion of Bailey Street may be renamed to the late Mexican Mariachi singer ” Vicente Fernandez Street’ – a...

WeHo Spreads Word About Free Covid Testing

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood is reminding residents that free COVID-19 testing is available for them.  Demand for COVID-19 testing...

Green Qween New Queer-Owned Cannabis Shop Will Open Downtown

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

Green Qween, a new queer-owned and queer-driven cannabis shop, will open in downtown on April 20th.  The shops owners, Andrés...

2022 ‘WeHo Reads’ Series Celebrates the ‘Road to Joy’

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood invites community members to celebrate literature and local authors with its 2022 WeHo Reads literary...

New Injectable HIV Prevention Drug Approved By FDA

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first long-acting injectable medication for use as pre-exposure prevention, or PrEP, against...

New CA Law Helps With Transgender Deadnames

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

A new California law requires public colleges to update diplomas and records for transgender students who have changed their names....

MJ Rodriguez, 1st Openly Transgender Actress to Win Golden Globe

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Michaela Jae “MJ” Rodriguez has made history by becoming the first openly transgender person to win a Golden Globe.  The...

Animal Shelter Donations In Honor Of Betty White

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Animal shelter donations have increased exponentially in honor of late actress gay icon and animal lover Betty White. Over the...

AIDS/LifeCycle 2022 Needs More Volunteers

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

AIDS LifeCycle is back with more than $4 million raised so far for the 2022 ride benefitting the HIV/AIDS-related services...

Long Beach Named One of the Best LGBTQ Cities

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

For the 10th year in a row Long Beach has been named one of the best cities in the nation...

Gay Wedding At Dodger Stadium

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Eric Braverman and Jonathan Cottrell will exchange vows at Dodger Stadium. Showing the progress the LA Dodgers have made as...