Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced Luis J. Rodriguez, best-known for his memoir “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.,” as Poet Laureate of the City of Los Angeles.
"Luis Rodriguez is an example of how powerful an impact literature can have on young lives, and as Poet Laureate, he will impact youth across Los Angeles,” Mayor Garcetti said. “I have no doubt that Luis will run with this new role and take it to new heights.”
As Poet Laureate, Rodriguez will serve a two-year term as an official ambassador of L.A.’s vibrant creative scene, promoting the city’s rich literary community and celebrating the written word.
“I’m honored to be selected as the new Poet Laureate of Los Angeles—to expand on the new and imaginative journey Mayor Garcetti has embarked on to make this a livable, welcome, and artistically-alive city,” Luis says. “To me, poetry is deep soul-talk, a powerful means to enlarge one’s presence in the world.”
The Los Angeles Poet Laureate Program is a collaboration between the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and is intended to enhance the presence and appreciation of poetry and the literary arts in Los Angeles and to reach out to Angelenos who have limited access to poetry or have few opportunities for exposure to expressive writing.
“Luis Rodriguez frequently shares that he is someone who was literally saved by words when telling his personal story, one that resonates with so many of LA’s citizens,” said Danielle Brazell, General Manager of DCA. “Many words later, his natural gift for poetry and connecting with people to help them is undeniable. As our next Poet Laureate, he will continue to teach and inspire us all, especially our students - as a mentor, arts activist, and literary ambassador for our great city.”
“The Los Angeles Public Library congratulates Luis Rodriguez on his selection as the city’s poet laureate,” said City Librarian John F. Szabo. “We’re excited to work with Luis and bring our shared passion for empowering people through poetry and writing to communities across Los Angeles. I encourage everyone to join us in celebrating and experiencing Luis’ extraordinary work at readings, workshops and other programs at our libraries.”
Rodriguez is an award-winning poet, children's book writer, essayist, fiction writer, and journalist. He has 15 books in many genres, including the bestselling memoir “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” He is founder/editor of Tia Chucha Press, now in its 25th year, and co-founder/president of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. His poetry book, “My Nature is Hunger,” won the 2005 Paterson Poetry Prize. His latest book is the sequel to “Always Running,” entitled “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing.”
Rodriguez, who grew up in South L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley, joined his first street gang at age eleven. He began to turn his life around in the early 1980s after attending a UC Berkeley writing workshop. By 1993, Rodriguez’s first memoir, “Always Running,” was published as a cautionary tale for his son and has since become a staple in classrooms across the nation.
The selection process was overseen by a 12-member application review committee. The committee reviewed the 30 nominations submitted and recommended four finalists for DCA and LAPL to forward to the Mayor’s Office for consideration.
Committee members: Amanda Fairey, Dana Goia, Kima Jones, George Kolombatovich, Diane Luby Lane, Lester Lennon, Josefina Lopez, Keith Martin, Lewis McAdams, Michelle Meyering, Harryette Mullen, and Nina Revoyr.