April is National Poetry Month, and the city of West Hollywood is celebrating poetry and presenting a number of other literary programs this spring. WeHo is dazzling residents and visitors with “Poetry in Lights” electronic billboards and lamppost poetry banners that are literally bringing poetry to the streets. It’s literature as visual art, and as kinetic as it is moving. But don’t stop there – workshops, readings, and the chance to build your own Little Free Library are all a part of the city’s plan to woo readers and writers.
The city’s celebration of National Poetry Month is the biggest news, city poet Steven Reigns has put together a wide-ranging calendar of events and workshops, and is leading a free poetry writing workshop himself on April 21st at 7:30 p.m. in the West Hollywood Library Community room. Both novices and the more experienced can join – the only requirement Reigns makes is a willingness to try plus a pen and some paper.
Along with his tenure as City Poet of West Hollywood, Reigns is a nine-time recipient of The Los Angeles City’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ Artist in Residency Grant, and has led the My Life is Poetry workshop, an autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBTQ seniors, and edited an anthology of their work. He also has led the 2016 Lambda Literary Book Club series, a monthly discussion of LGBTQ literature that is on-going.
“This year, my final year as City Poet, my focus has been to introduce poetry to more people,” Reigns says. “Poetry is powerful and I want to share it with as many people as possible.” Reigns is particularly driven to express the relevance of poetry for those who’ve discounted the medium. The Poetry in Lights initiative was his own, with the support of Alex Bazley at West Hollywood Gateway, and graphic designer Eric Hanson, who created the visuals showcasing the poets.
This digital public art project is being displayed intermittently on two electronic billboards, one at West Hollywood Gateway in the 7100 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, and the other at 1OAK located at 9039 W. Sunset. These billboards flip through portraits of 22 contemporary poets and feature excerpts from their works. Visually compelling, the project is also of course a good read.
The lamppost banners that are flying in conjunction with this project and National Poetry Month dot the landscape along Santa Monica Boulevard from Sweetzer Avenue to Westbourne Drive. These banners also feature a poet’s image along with a line from the poet’s work.
As an added bonus, free bookmarks depicting four of these lamppost poets are being distributed throughout the city, at the West Hollywood Library, City Hall, and other locations.
Grab a bookmark while you can, and along with Reigns’ workshop on the 21st, check out events that include a poetry reading by three Red Hen Press poets at Book Soup on Monday the 25th. Don’t miss these events, remember, as poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti once said, “Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.” Living in LA, that’s a pretty potent metaphor.
Proving that WeHo will continue to be a literate community even after National Poetry Month rhymes on, is the Little Free Library Program. West Hollywood residents can apply on the city’s website for one of eight $600 grants to build their own “take a book, leave a book” shelter. While most participants start off using their own books, the group Friends of the West Hollywood Library has agreed to donate a starter set of books to each person who receives a grant from the city to build one. The initial pilot program still has enough funding for five more Little Free Libraries, so bibliophiles in West Hollywood are encouraged to apply.
And lastly, writers who reside in West Hollywood should look up the three PEN Center USA Scholarships, which include an eight-week master class in fiction and non-fiction, a session with an editor, and a reading. But would-be applicants better hurry – the deadline to apply is Monday 4/18. To apply, visit https://emerging-voices.submittable.com/submit.
For complete information on Poetry Month in West Hollywood, including bios of featured writers, visit http://weho.org/residents/poetry-month-2016
And for WeHo residents interested in building a Little Free Library visit www.weho.org/residents/arts-and-culture/little-free-library