Los Angeles Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis
Robin Coste Lewis, winner of the National Book Award, is the new Poet Laureate of the City of Los Angeles.
As an official ambassador of L.A.’s arts community, Lewis will promote and celebrate the written word, and represent the city’s rich literary scene.
“Robin is a fearless writer whose lyricism reclaims history for people who feel forgotten, and gives voice to those who feel silenced,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Los Angeles is fortunate to be represented by such a powerful artist. She will push boundaries and challenge us to rethink our perspectives.”
The Los Angeles Poet Laureate Program is a collaboration between the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL). Its aim is to enhance the presence and appreciation of poetry and the literary arts in Los Angeles, and to engage Angelenos who have limited exposure to poetry and other forms of expressive writing.
“The role of the L.A. Poet Laureate is two-fold: first, to celebrate and curate an ever-widening cross-city appreciation for poetry of all kinds, from all cultures and nations; second, to celebrate the rich and diverse history of Los Angeles poetry,” said Lewis. “Poetry is high art, sure, but it is also an exceedingly accessible cultural game that anyone can play. From the elderly to prisoners, I try at all times to remind my students that the only difference between a great poet and a lousy one is practice. Poetry isn’t rocket science. It’s merely love.”
A native of Compton, Lewis is the author of the award-winning collection Voyage of the Sable Venus. She is a writer-in-residence and provost’s fellow at the University of Southern California. A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the California Book Award, she has published poems in The New Yorker, The Best American Poetry, Lambda Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond.
The Big Read Program in Los Angeles
The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American popular culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest. Generous support is also provided by Sony Pictures Entertainment. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the NEA hope to unite communities through literature and intra-cultural connections, as well as to inspire teens to become life-long readers with the 2017 Big Read Program in Los Angeles.
DCA has been awarded Big Read grants from the NEA since the inception of the program in 2007/08. 2017 will mark DCA’s ninth year of programming its Big Read Program in Los Angeles with a selection of poetry by Emily Dickinson. The Big Read will serve as an entry point for dialogue, creative programming, and cultivating new and long-standing alliances between community organizations and the arts across Los Angeles.
The Big Read Program in Los Angeles consists of community reading groups from October 2016 to May 2017, and related public activities and events from September 2016 to June 2017, and is presented by DCA in conjunction with partner community and cultural organizations that include some of DCA’s Neighborhood Arts and Cultural Centers (Canoga Park Youth Arts Center; Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park; Sun Valley Youth Arts Center; Vision Theatre; Warner Grand Theatre; Watts Towers Arts Center; and William Grant Still Arts Center), the Anne Douglas Center for Women- the Los Angeles Mission, the Culinary Historians of Southern California, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, the Museum of the San Fernando Valley, Libros Schmibros Lending Library, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Los Angeles Unified School District, KAOS Network, Leimert Park Village Book Fair, The Music Center, Self Help Graphics & Art, Downtown’s Grand Park, the LA Harbor International Film Festival, CalArts Community Arts Partnership, the Los Angeles Poet Laureate, GR818ers, and many more. Participating artists, poets, and historians include: Ben Caldwell, Linda Civitello, Rachel Curry, traci kato-kiriyama, Beth Peterson, Nathalie Sanchez, Joseph Saenz, Mike “The PoeT” Sonksen, and more.
A civic ceremony at the historical Los Angeles City Hall is held annually at the end of March to proclaim the month of April, 2017 as Literature and Poetry Month Celebrating the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Big Read Program in Los Angeles. The public is invited to participate in the many free activities offered by the program partners, such as walking tours, lectures, panel discussions, film screenings, cooking demonstrations, music concerts, animation courses, live readings, poetry recitals, writing workshops, and museum tours.