Eloise Klein Healy Named First Poet Laureate of Los Angeles

Fri, 12/07/2012 - 12:31pm

Photo: Healy event photoMayor Antonio Villaraigosa honored Los Angeles poet Eloise Klein Healy as the city's inaugural Poet Laureate at a ceremony at the Los Angeles Central Library this morning.

"LA is a city of writers, a city that inspires writers," Villaraigosa said in his opening remarks, "but we are a city that doesn't do enough for writers."  Villaraigosa, in collaboration with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, established the Poet Laureate post to serve as an "ambassador to our city's vibrant poetry and literary culture." 

Healy was selected from a competitive pool of nearly forty highly talented and community engaged poets, which made the selection process challenging.  Helmed by former NEA Chair Dana Gioia, the selection committee drew on the expertise of a group of Los Angeles writers in narrowing the list.  "The selection committee worked with great care and enthusiasm," Gioia said.  "Many of the best poets in Los Angeles applied for the position.  I am certain that there will be no shortage of great laureates in future years."  The committee included noted poet William Archila and poet and Red Hen Press editor Kate Gale.

Healy has spent the past three decades writing about Los Angeles and contributing to its visibility as a literary center.  She is the founding chair of the Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing at Antoch College Los Angeles and was heavily involved in Woman's Building, a West Coast feminist cultural center in Los Angeles whose legacy was recently celebrated as part of the Southern California region's Pacific Standard Time exhibition in 2012.

"LA has been a constant source of inspiration for me, and it is my goal to share my excitement about writing with all Angelenos. We have much to learn from each other and I look forward to a new era of creativity starting now," Healy said in her remarks before giving a reading of "Artemis in Echo Park," a paean to Los Angeles's roadways, which she describes as "drifting skyward, lifting off the landscape like dreams of the future." Click here to hear Healy read "Artemis in Echo Park" in its entirety.

As Poet Laureate, Healy will write poetry, promote other Angeleno writers, and speak publicly throughout our region of the transformative qualities of poetry and the written word.  The position is subsidized by an annual grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs.  Of the announcement, DCA's executive director Olga Garay-English said, "I look forward to Eloise Klein Healy adding to her already impressive poems inspired by Los Angeles, which will hopefully ignite within Angelenos a desire to create their own poetry as homage to this great city."

Gioia, too, echoed the importance of the arts to Los Angeles.  "Our primary industry is the imagination," he said.  Mayor Villaragoisa agreed.  "[Los Angeles] is the arts and culture capital of the world."

For more information on Eloise Klein Healy and her poetry, visit http://www.eloisekleinhealy.com.