Service | Community & World



Mike Sonksen, also known as "Mike the Poet," considers himself equally a scholar and performer, After earning his B. A. from UCLA, he decided to enter graduate school at Cal State LA partly because of the opportunities offered by CCPP. As a graduate student studying for an Interdisciplinary M. A. in English, Creative Writing and History, CCPP provided Sonksen with a place to become involved in many activities and events to enhance his education. He especially prized the multi-generational literary events, writing workshops, opportunities to mentor both undergraduate writers and youth from partner schools and organizations such as GEAR UP and Schurr High School, presentations and class visits by distinguished poets, and chances to interview visiting poets. A number of video clips have been made of the many events that Sonksen and classmates organized participated in from 2011 to 2014 with the support and guidance of CCPP. Sonksen also served for three years as an Editor of Statement Magazine. The literary journal and CCPP worked symbiotically to promote literature on campus and in the community. After completing his  M.A. in June 2014, Sonksen continues to write and publish widely. His thesis, Poetics of Location, will be published as a book by Writ Large Press in August 2014. Sonksen also makes frequent appearances for performances and workshops at local universities and high schools. H credits his experience at Cal State LA and CCPP with honing the skills that resulted in his assignment to write weekly online KCET column, L. A. Letters Celebrates Literary Los Angeles:
Samples of Mike's Work With CCPP
Video Poem on Union Station
This video clip was filmed and edited by Statement Editor and active CCPP participant and current undergraduate, Lucas Benitez.
The audio recording, "Arrival Stories," is a poem written by Sonksen in his last poetry workshop in graduate school during Winter 2013.



In addition to giving poetry readings open to the public, poets hosted by The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics attend classes, where their books are often incorporated in the curriculum, and speak with members of campus organizations as well as community partners. While the Center does not offer courses for credit, its programming is incorporated in many classes. It serves as a source of support for various areas of intellectual and aesthetic inquiry on campus that are part of degree programs.  

The Jean Burden Series poets, British Council Poets-in-Residence and featured artists in the visiting poets series often attend classes in a range of subjects at CSULA, including Creative Writing, English, Sociology, Pan-African Studies, Dance, Art, Liberal Studies and Music. Students often find these encounters to be life-altering, and discover a new sense of direction and purpose through contact with Center poets, opportunities and events. Students and members of the public who participate in Center events may choose to pursue graduate or undergraduate degrees incorporating poetry or seek ways to incorporate poetry in their personal or professional lives. The Center is happy to serve as a resource to enable further exploration of poetry in formal and informal ways for interested individuals.

CSULA students who are working as teachers or enrolled in teaching credential programs often use Center programming in their lesson plans and professional development, and consider this exposure to be a major benefit of their educational experience. These student/teachers also involve their own students in Center readings and activities tailored to young people.

The African American Poetic Tradition, which was taught in Winter 2006, is an example of a class that worked in collaboration with The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics in conjunction with another community partner, the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County. As a final project, this Cal State L.A. MA class created a multimedia interactive gallery exhibition at the Natural History Museum during the month of December 2006 depicting the history and dynamic identity of African American poetry.

Poets hosted by The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics have conducted open dialogues, workshops and performances for participants at PALS (Partnership for Academic Learning and Success), the Osher Center for Lifelong Learning, the Reel Rasquache Festival, the Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities, the Cross Cultural Centers, the American Communities Program, and at partner schools Chester W. Nimitz Middle School and Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

The British Council is one of the Center's most valued partners, co-sponsoring a rich array of programming directly relating to class collaboration. In addition to the British Council Poets-in-Residence who visit classes and work with students on campus for one month each year, in 2007 we launched the first of what we hope will be many transatlantic videoconference symposia sponsored by the British Council. The first videoconference, held in February 2007, commemorated the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the UK. A panel of faculty and graduate student participants from Cal State L.A. and Royal Holloway, University of London, joined together in this virtual international academic conference to discuss the literary dimensions and presence of slavery as a lasting cultural trauma from the British and American perspectives. This event provided graduate students with a unique opportunity to engage professionally as peers with their professors and international graduate students and faculty, and with a glimpse of how another nation views the same event. The second symposium will take place in October 2007, with student and faculty participants from Cal State L.A., University of Glasgow and Royal Holloway, University of London. The topic will be Dramas and Trauma: Writers' Views of War.

It is part of the Center's mission for visiting poets to serve as wide a constituency as possible and to suit their immediate needs. The Center is committed to the belief that the finest poetry is an important and accessible asset to the life of all individuals and contributes to the well-being of every community of learners, from children in grade school to adults in continuing education classes.