May 17, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

West Hollywood Celebrates National Poetry Month

The City of West Hollywood will celebrate National Poetry Month in April with a variety of events and exhibitions honoring poets and art of poetry.

Throughout the month of April, the City of West Hollywood will honor living poets by featuring selections of their poetry on street pole banners along Santa Monica Boulevard. Currently there are 43 poets honored, and each year the West Hollywood City Poet Laureate selects two additional poets to honor. This year’s honorees are Ryka Aoki and Tommy Pico, with an additional banner honoring City Poet Laureate and The Pride LA’s partner Brian Sonia-Wallace. 

On Monday, April 5, 2021 at 6 p.m., the City Council of the City of West Hollywood issued a commemorative National Poetry Month proclamation, which was received by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace. The presentation took place online and is now viewable on the City’s YouTube channel. The West Hollywood City Poet Laureate also debuted a new poem he created, which combines lines submitted by 53 West Hollywood residents and visitors.

On Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 6 p.m., as part of the City’s WeHo Reads series, there was a poetry reading and conversation about representation in relation to the history of the local LGBTQ rights movement with Gustavo Hernandez, a poet with a new poetry collection Flower Grand First, and Rocío Carlos, author of the (other) house whose work was included in LACMA’s Pacific Standard Time exhibition, Those of This America. The event featured musical guests Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, who have as part of their group the first openly transgender woman in the history of mariachi. The event, titled Exploring the Landscape of the Gay Rights Movement, took place online and was free to attend. 

On Wednesday, April 14, 2021 at 6 p.m., as part of the City’s WeHo Reads series, West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace will bring together poets near and far for an exploration of thresholds in language, gender, generation, and geography. Featured poets include Terry Wolverton, Alyesha Wise-Hernandez, féi hernandez, Alan Pelaez Lopez, and Harry Giles. The event will culminate in writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing and a virtual afterparty for participants to share their work. The event, titled “It is time to cross the threshold on your hands” (after a line by poet Kayleigh Zaloga), will take place online and is free to attend. For more information and to RSVP: www.weho.org/wehoreads.

On Fridays and Saturdays through the month of April, with the support of the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division, Greenway Arts Alliance will present the annual L.A. Get Down Festival. The festival is a celebration of hip hop and spoken word, presented in association with Da Poetry Lounge. Most events are $10.  For tickets and information, visit http://greenwaycourttheatre.org/lagetdown2021.

The City of West Hollywood began its City Poet Laureate program in 2014, with each poet serving for a two-year term. The City Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador of West Hollywood’s vibrant literary culture and leads the promotion of poetry in the City, including assisting with its annual celebration of National Poetry Month.

Brian Sonia-Wallace began his appointment in October 2020 following West Hollywood’s third City Poet Laureate, Charles Flowers (2018-2020). Previous City Poet Laureates include Kim Dower (2016-2018), who initiated the Citywide Collaborative Poem and Steven Reigns, West Hollywood’s inaugural City Poet Laureate (2014-2016), who implemented the City’s annual Poetry Month street banner project, which honors living poets and brings snippets of poetry into the streets of West Hollywood.

Brian Sonia-Wallace has been writing poems for strangers and neighbors on the streets of West Hollywood and at City of West Hollywood events since the WeHo Reads 2014 season. A social practice poet straddling the lines between literature and community engagement, his 2020 debut from Harper Collins, The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America With a Typewriter, was lauded as “full of optimism and wide-eyed wonder” by The New York Times. He teaches creative writing through 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 to create Pride Poets, a project that brought poets on typewriters to the streets of West Hollywood to create more than 700 original works based on one-on-one interactions, and in 2020 brought together more than 100 LGBTQ+ poets for virtual shows during the COVID-19 quarantine. Pride Poets has been featured in The Advocate, and Sonia-Wallace’s work has, additionally, been profiled by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Poetry Foundation, NPR, ABC7, and Telemundo. Most recently Sonia-Wallace has partnered with The Pride LA to curate monthly poems featuring his work and works from other poets titled Pride Poets’ Corner. 

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