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Los Angeles Names Its First Poet Laureate

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Los Angeles, you have a Poet Laureate. The first-ever wordsmith to hold this title is Eloise Klein Healy, a 69-year-old Sherman Oaks resident considered a veteran on the L.A. literary scene.

"Healy is the founding editor of Arktoi Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press dedicated to publishing high quality literature by lesbians," explains Red Hen Press in an email. She is also a creative writing professor at Antioch University. Healy has penned seven poetry books, and has a number of awards and award nominations on her resume.

Texas-born and Iowa-raised Healy was chosen by a selection committee, appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, that included six poets and literary experts representative of the city's diverse cultural communities and traditions.

Villaraigosa announced the selection of Healy as Poet Laureate Friday during a news conference, according to City News Service. Said Villaraigosa:

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"While each of the nominees demonstrated a command of the written word, Eloise Klein Healy's work highlighted the truly innovative and imaginative nature of our city's literary genius. I am proud to have her serve as the Ambassador to our City's vibrant poetry and literary culture."

Of the honor, Healy said: "L.A. has been a constant source of inspiration for me, and it is my goal to share my excitement about writing with all Angelenos. We are a community rich in languages, cultures and literary traditions. We have much to learn from each other, and I look forward to a new era of creativity starting now."

The call for potential poet laureates went out in late August. The post comes with a $10,000 per year grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs, and requires Healy hold at least four public readings and four school visits annually for the duration of the term, which is two years. The post also calls for Healy to "serve as the official ambassador of Los Angeles’ vibrant poetry and literary culture" and "educate Los Angeles residents, visitors, civic and elected leaders, young people, adults, seniors, and students of all ages about the value of poetry and creative expression."

Here is Healy's poem "Entries: LA Log," which appears in the book "A Packet Beating Like a Heart" and is published on Healy's wesbite:

Entries: LA Log

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1
The stars shine all day
through my scalp
five foot three inches into space
called atmosphere
or one of the ways to understand a novel.

2
At this address
a bougainvillea lifts her curls
and kisses a Santa Ana with her mouth open
right on its blueblue skies.

3
I like to ride the fast lane
es muy caliente
and under me a red chile siren
pepper peppers Alvarado with cop sauce
as I cross.

4
I know I know
I'm dying a little faster of Los Angeles
but I suck in a piece of it anyway,
sing it out in little puffs
LA LA LA LA
about twenty times altogether
like a bunch of cheerleaders
yelling down the freeway in a bus.

5
Coiling out to Malibu
on a copper strand,
my sunglasses shine
like two westbound storefronts
open to the scenery business.

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6
I never owned a map
to the stars' homes
but I sent to JPL
for 8x10 glossies of Mars
to stick up around my mirror.

7
I note the traffic patterns
of two Ring-billed gulls
flying the Santa Monica Freeway,
pale boomerangs
arching across their backs
as they exit up.