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Celebrating Eleven Years of Los Angeles Literature

By Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

The Los Angeles Poet Society celebrated its 11th anniversary this November 2020, with a carefully curated event where they continued to create space for new voices and to honor those that have been at this process for decades. Shonda Buchanan and Laurel Ann Bogen received the first honors that day. With the ever-exchanging energy of poets, Shonda Buchanan’s award evolved into the Warrior Author Award, a well-deserved title for her vision in driving literature forward. Laurel Ann Bogen, won the Los Angeles Award for her resilience as a female poet in LA. Shonda and Laurel Ann both graced us with sets of their poetry, both reflecting on the moment, giving powerful performances that made me eager to get my hands on all their books (and I say this even with overflowing bookshelves!). There was a deep community spirit felt even through so many plastic screens, people forgot about time and just sunk into the words and stories being told. It makes me think of that word, commiserate, and just how much it feels like we all need to share with one another to truly process our moment and place in time.

Alex Petunia, who hosts One Mic One Globe, and Karo Ska, who is the new host of The SoapBox Poets Open Mic, displayed their collaborative nature as they hosted a segment called The Infinity Hour. They introduced a lineup of courageous poets, brandishing their truths as they cut into us with their necessary words, shaping a new world understanding as they do. Among them Andrés Sánchez whose formidable book This Body, launching soon, and is not one to miss, check that out through World Stage Press. Trini Rodriguez won The Spirit of Life Award, the Los Angeles Poet Society's legacy award. Trini is a Co-Founder of Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore. She shared a beautiful poem about a feather that she wrote during the writing workshop that is hosted there, In the Words of Women. Michael Rothenberg was also among those honored, winning the Artivist Award for his poetic activism in founding 100 Thousand Poets for Change, an annual global event whose mission it is to promote peace and sustainability around the world. The Los Angeles Poet Society took this time to share many of the events and projects scheduled for 2021, in particular a new reading series in partnership with Ruth Nolan called the LA Desert Exchange, where the stage is shared by both LA based poets and writers from the dessert communities. Ruth’s was a heart wrenching set and I am personally looking forward to her forthcoming memoir about being a woman in the world of wildland firefighting.

Not only were the performers fabulous, Zooming in from all across the states, there was also a beat poetry workshop lead by the super cool Richard Modiano, where some of Diane di Prima’s poetry was shared (to whom the event was dedicated) and the audience given time to participate in the practice of poetry. A highlight for me as well, was the guitar music played by Nelson Alburquenque (@nyinelson), who admitted he hadn’t played for months as he has been busy writing a play at the Institute of American Indian Art. Even so, the music flowed through him gently as we took some time to free write, contemplate prompts, and think about all the beautiful words that had thus far been spoken. Devin Laster painted in the background of all of this, the poetry, the music, the workshops, and the stories. You can find him @DevinThePainter on Instagram to see how he converted a blank canvas into a gorgeous finished painting, a sort of anonymous artist portrait.

The night ended with The People’s Open Mic, a space open to the audience to share a few of their own words, a gesture that welcomes us all to join in, to partake in this comradery of minds. I am new to the LA Poet Society (in fact this was only my second visit and it was so good I canceled plans to stayed plugged in for the whole event), but one thing is already perfectly clear to me, none of this magic would be going on if it wasn’t for the pure effort and persistence of Jessica Wilson and Juan Cardenas. So, if you can spare a few dollars it is wise, I think, to donate them to this phenomenal project a way to keep us all in good company well into the future. Looking for more inspiration? Check out their monthly calendar, it is filled with free workshops and readings and well, I hope to see you there!

-Kelsey Bryan-Zwick,

Author of, Here Go the Knives, Moon Tide Press, Jan 2022.

P.S. Sad you missed the show? No worries you can catch the recording posted to the Los Angeles Poet Society Facebook page!


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