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Decision on LA’s Poet Laureate to Come Friday…Possible Shortlist Includes…

By Harriet Staff

Los Angeles is about to name its first official Poet Laureate. The LA Times reports on the near decision (Friday!):

…For weeks, via email and in two meetings at city offices on Bunker Hill, they’ve been debating the merits of a list of writers that includes “stand-up” poets and academic poets, surrealists and others. Paid $10,000 annually, the winner will become an official city bard and traveling teacher, tasked with making school visits and giving public readings.

For L.A.’s poetry community, which has been home to iconoclasts like Charles Bukowski and Wanda Coleman, it’s a watershed moment — and one that was unexpected. Poets are used to anonymity. L.A. poets, far from the center of U.S. publishing in New York, feel even more neglected.

[...]

The post, funded by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, is the brainchild of [Mayor] Villaraigosa. Most U.S. states have poet laureates, as do many cities, large and small, including Boston, Santa Fe, N.M.; San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

Gioia said the committee began by brainstorming a wish list of 11 candidates they wanted to see in the mix. All but one of those poets were among the 40 people who were nominated or applied, he said.

“We have an amazingly diverse group,” he said. “You could cast a World War II bomber picture with the poets we have.”

The committee is judging the candidates by three criteria established by its members and the mayor’s office. The poet laureate must have achieved literary excellence, have a strong personal connection to Los Angeles and demonstrate a willingness to go out and serve the people of the city.

Using that criteria, a resurrected Jack Kerouac wouldn’t necessary qualify because he didn’t plant roots in L.A. A reclusive genius in the mold of Emily Dickinson would get a no from the committee too, because, “We love you, Emily, but you won’t leave your house,” Gioia said.

The members of the committee declined to discuss the names of any poets they were considering. But taking into account the committee’s criteria, Mohr handicapped a shortlist of poets he thinks could make the final cut, including [Wanda] Coleman, Suzanne Lummis, Paul Vangelisti, Eloise Klein Healy and Will Alexander.

Nice list. We’ll, of course, keep you posted.


Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.