Providing a stage for poetry: Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics

Poet laureate

The center is a co-sponsor of the 2016 AWP Conference and Book Fair, March 30-April 2

During a recent reading at Cal State LA, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera reminded the audience of the poetry and the stories within each of us--and the value in sharing them. 

“The more voices we allow to come and be expressed, the more presence we have of our complete humanity,” Herrera told a rapt audience in the Golden Eagle Ballrooms during a recent visit.

Allowing those voices to be heard is part of the mission of Cal State LA’s Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Herrera, who has been a member of the center’s board since 2004, visited Cal State LA as part of the Jean Burden Poetry Series. Past speakers have included Adrienne Rich, Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Li-Young Lee and Sonia Sanchez.  

The center is now a co-sponsor of the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference and Book Fair. The four-day, multi-venue event includes poetry readings, panel discussions, and a public reception hosted by Cal State LA.

On March 31, President William A. Covino and Lauri Ramey, director of the center, will participate in a panel discussion “Planning and Running a University Literary Center.” Other panelists include poet Marisela Norte, center board member and Cal State LA professor, Mike Soldatenko, and center intern, Jamie Tice. The discussion will be held at 3 p.m. at the JW Marriot Los Angeles L.A. Live.

A reception and reading will be held on Friday, April 1 at the University’s Downtown L.A. campus. “What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America” will feature several poets. 

The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics includes a full list of University co-sponsored AWP events, times and locations on its websites. The events offer opportunities to hear a wide array of writers and poets.

During his reading at Cal State LA, Herrera was like a conductor, creating a symphony of sounds and rhymes as the audience repeated poetry after him. At other times he was like a favorite uncle, recalling poignant and funny stories of his first days on a university campus, a time when he didn’t quite know what was a “dorm.”  Throughout the evening Herrera made poetry accessible and relevant.

Photo: U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera at Cal State LA. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)