In addition to serving Cal State L.A. and the neighboring community, one of the major purposes of The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics is to form dynamic partnerships locally, nationally and internationally with organizations and individuals in order to promote contemporary poetry. We are always eager to hear of new ideas and proposals for ways that we may work effectively with others to achieve shared goals.
This series, one of the longest running and most prestigious in the U.S., was established in 1986 by friends and supporters of Jean Burden to honor her achievements as a poet, essayist, editor, teacher and scholar. An Illinois native, University of Chicago alumna, and Altadena resident, Burden served as poetry editor of Yankee Magazine for 47 years, and published her poetry in prominent magazines including Poetry, Saturday Review, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review and American Scholar. She is the author of two poetry collections, Naked as the Glass (October House, 1963) and Taking Light from Each Other (University Press of Florida, 1992). Her poetry has been praised by figures such as James Dickey who called “[h]er voice unforced and lovely, saying the right un-heard-of-things with naturalness,” and Mary Oliver who described her poems as “silky, meditative, purposeful...filled with the deft cadences of reason.” Burden wrote six bestsellers on animal welfare, and an essay collection, Journey Toward Poetry (October House, 1966), lauded by May Sarton as “a key to a way of looking and a way of being.” The Jean Burden Series also honors and celebrates Jean Burden’s decades of commitment to sustaining poetry’s presence at Cal State L.A.
This increasingly popular event features an annual reading by a major poet. Noted poets, Pulitzer Prize winners and Poets Laureate have been guest readers since the inception of this series at Cal State L.A., including Andrew Motion, Rita Dove, Anthony Hecht, Maxine Kumin, Mary Oliver, Harryette Mullen, Lucille Clifton, Galway Kinnell, Carolyn Kizer, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Richard Wilbur, Linda Pastan, and Mark Strand.
A partnership that has added untold new insights and experiences to our campus, community and southern California is the pathbreaking British Council Writer-in-Residence Program (always a poetry residency at Cal State L.A.), launched in 2004. Cal State L.A. was honored to serve as the designated West Coast site (with Georgetown University as our sister site on the East Coast) for this visionary three-year pilot program in which a different British poet is selected to spend one month on our campus each year interacting with students, partner organizations and the public. The overwhelmingly positive impact of this residency for all participants has resulted in a joint decision by The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics and the British Council to continue our partnership beyond the pilot, and we look forward with pleasure to our fourth year of this unique program.
Chester W. Nimitz Middle School
6021 Carmelita Ave.
Huntington Park, Ca. 90255
One of our valued partnerships is a poetry mentorship started in 2004 with Chester W. Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park. This mentorship was inspired by Ms. Ana Perez, who was at the time studying for her MA in poetry and education at Cal State L.A. while teaching 8th grade English at Nimitz. Ana requested permission to include her own students in her studies by bringing them to curricular and extracurricular poetry events and adapting her MA poetry materials to enhance her 8th grade literature and culture curriculum. The mentorship kicked off with a poetry reading by the 8th graders to a packed audience of their friends and families and Cal State L.A. graduate poetry students. This partnership is a direct extension of Ana's graduate work that was inspired by her participation in the activities of The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, and will be featured in the future on the Alumni web page on this site.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90007
We embarked on an exciting partnership with the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County in 2006 and look forward to future joint programming. In Fall 2006, Cal State L.A.'s MA class in The African American Poetic Tradition curated and installed an exhibition in the museum as its collaborative final project. The students learned about the history of African American poetry through this unique opportunity, as well as a wide range of additional practical and conceptual information, including how to translate poetry into three dimensions, how audiences experience and participate in cultural interactions, and even such areas as fire law and copyright law. The exhibition, "Exodus: African American Poetry Through Time," was installed in the museum's Inter/Act Gallery from December 16 to January 5, one of its busiest times of the year, and was seen by an estimated audience of 4,000 visitors.
Los Angeles County High School for the Arts
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032
In 2004, we established a poetry mentorship with Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, which we are proud to have located on the campus of Cal State L.A. Many visiting poets have given presentations and conducted workshops oriented towards the multi-disciplinary artistic interests of LACHSA's talented students. For example, in 2004, giovanni singleton conducted an interactive workshop on poetry and blues. In 2005, Juan Felipe Herrera discussed ways that artists draw on autobiographical experience and led LACHSA students in constructing a "sound tunnel" in Cal State L.A.'s Fine Arts Gallery. That same year, British Council Poet-in-Residence Anthony Joseph talked about his childhood in Trinidad and ways of finding an authentic language in whatever art form you practice. In 2006, Keith and Mendi Obadike shared their experiences in melding poetry and sound environments and the process of artistic collaboration. Often, Cal State L.A. poetry students will attend these events so they can serve as role models for the LACHSA students, engage in dialogue, and answer questions such as how a college education can benefit artists.