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Eloise Klein Healy is on the Mend

By Harriet Staff


We were devastated to hear the news that Eloise Klein Healy, Los Angeles’s first poet laureate, had to resign from her position when she became ill with encephalitis in 2012. A little over a year later, she is on the mend! JacketCopy brings us the good news—

If you listen closely to her, she still speaks like a poet — just not the poet she was before.

She sounds more like, say, Gertrude Stein, a free-associating poet who juggles and feints, making verbs serve as nouns and treating syntax like a jigsaw.

Eloise Klein Healy is Los Angeles’ first poet laureate. She was named to that post in December 2012, chosen by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

She would not be an Emily Dickinson, shut up in her room and writing poems to hide in her bureau. She was to be a missionary, seeking converts and believers from Sylmar to San Pedro. And Healy was at the top of her game. Her book “A Wild Surmise” was collecting fine reviews for a poet whose constant inspiration was Los Angeles itself.

And then — there’s always an “and then” in literature — she got sick. In April, Healy appeared with Caroline Kennedy at a poetry event at the Los Angeles Central Library. A few who heard her said she seemed a bit off, like someone who was coming down with the flu.

It wasn’t the flu. It was encephalitis. At the kitchen table in their home in the Valley, Healy’s partner, Colleen Rooney, explained that the illness sent Healy from her writing desk to the ICU. Her electrolytes crashed. Her kidneys crashed. She spent three harrowing weeks on an anti-viral IV.

As a result of her illness, Healy resigned as poet laureate in September. It was a hard thing to do, but the duties required skills she could no longer command, at least for now.

She brought to the two-year laureate position both academic credentials and street cred. Texas-born and Iowa-bred, she came to L.A. as a child and found its quirky attractions to be the perfect subject for poetry.

In her seven books, like “A Wild Surmise” and “Artemis in Echo Park,” she surveys the life of Los Angeles, its vast, fast spaces and its myriad interiors. In “The Beach at Sunset,” she writes, “No matter what else is happening,/this is California. You’ll have your cancer/at freeway speeds. I’ll drive and park/and drive and park. The hospital/when I arrive to visit will be catching/the last rays of the sun, glinting/like an architectural miracle realized.”

Continue reading at JacketCopy— and get well soon Eloise Klein Healy!

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, January 9th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.