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Upcoming Events

2022 Jean Burden Poetry Reading, featuring Naomi Shihab Nye

February 22, 2022, 6 p.m. Pacific Time

Free and Open to the Public; register for the Zoom here

Photograph of Naomi Shihab Nye

Cal State LA's Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics welcomes Naomi Shihab Nye as our 2022 reader in the Jean Burden Poetry Series. An author of more than thirty books for both adults and children, Nye's work is informed by her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her conviction in the optimistic power of poetry. Her work as a poet, essayist, editor of anthologies, and author of children's literature has received every kind of accolade; she is Chancellor Emeritus for the Academy of American Poets, and has most recently served as the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate. We invite you to join us for this special evening of poetry rich with keen observation, provocative insight, and, crucially, hope.

Please revisit this page for future updates, or find us on facebook (@CSULApoetry) for the latest news.

Browse below for information on past Jean Burden Poetry Series Events.


The Center’s initiatives include a wealth of activities underway and planned for the future, including its signature event, the esteemed Jean Burden Poetry Series, which has been a community fixture since 1986. In addition, CCPP has historically played a leadership role in advocating for creativity and literary experience on the Cal State LA campus, through a diverse roster of programming and collaborations with other campus organizations including the Department of English, The Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities, The American Communities Program, the Cross Cultural Centers, and Statement Magazine.


From the Archive: CCPP's Creation

Cal State L.A. Center for Contemporary Poetry & Poetics

‘Umbrella’ of programs to foster poetry ‘at the highest possible level’

Los Angeles, CA – Poetry, already in motion for decades at California State University, Los Angeles, just accelerated with the recent creation of the Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics.

Supported by a $750,000 bequest from Virginia E. Smith, Cal State L.A.’s new Center brings together scholars, students, poets and the community for classes, readings, dialogue, research, celebrations and presentations.

“The center,” said its director, Lauri Ramey, “puts all poetry programming at Cal State L.A. under one umbrella; and it allows us to expand.”

It also advances the campus’s poetic legacy, which includes annually hosting the Jean Burden Reading Series since 1986 and, more recently, the British Council Poet-in-Residence.

A published poet, Ramey formerly directed creative writing programs at Hampton University in Virginia and Cardiff University in Wales. She joined Cal State L.A.’s English faculty in 2004.

Calling poetry “the least-taught genre in literature,” she does not mince words when making its case: “In challenging political times, poetry has a long history of coming to the forefront. People sometimes don’t know where else to turn to express themselves.”

She said the center, in fostering “poetry at the highest possible level across all boundaries,” brings diverse components of the community together. For example, a group of eighth-grade students from Chester W. Nimitz Middle continues in a partnership already established between the Huntington Park school and the University. The Center also works with researchers and others from the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.

“Poetry can be accessible and exciting for everyone,” said Ramey. “With the Center, we want to create a very productive environment for making poetry, one that moves across disciplines. There’s nothing else quite like it in California.”

The guest poets visit Cal State L.A. classes to share their work, to critique performances and to encourage students, and to offer insights into poetics – the making of poems. They also make selected appearances in the community.

The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics joins Cal State L.A.’s Integrated Humanities Center, which includes the Reel Rasquache Film Festival of Latino Cinema, the American Communities Program and the Center for the Study of Genders and Sexualities.

For details about the Poetry Center, contact Cal State L.A.’s College of Arts and Letters at (323) 343-4001.

Past Events

2021 Jean Burden Poetry Reading

February 25, 2021, 6 p.m. (This will be a virtual event.)

Pre-register for the Zoom by clicking here.

We are thrilled to welcome Claudia Rankine to Cal State LA in 2021 to read in the Jean Burden Poetry Series!

2021 Jean Burden Poetry Series featuring Claudia Rankine

Recipient of the 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. Her first published play, The White Card, was published with Graywolf Press in 2019. She also co-produced a video series, “The Situation,” alongside John Lucas, and is the founder of the Open Letter Project: Race and the Creative Imagination. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. Her most recent publication, Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf, 2020), is a collection of essays where Rankine questions what it means in these spaces to interrogate white privilege, well-meaning liberal politics, white male aggression, the implications of blondness, white supremacy in the White House, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and the alarming move toward Brexit.

Rankine’s bestselling book, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf, 2014), uses poetry, essay, cultural criticism, and visual images, to explore what it means to be an American citizen in a “post-racial” society. A defining text for our time, Citizen was the winner of the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (it was also a finalist in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the NAACP Image Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the LA Times Book Award for poetry. Citizen was nominated for the Hurston/Wright 2015 Legacy Award, was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award, and was selected as an NPR Best Book of 2014, who stated: “This collection examines everyday encounters with racism in the second person, forcing the reader—regardless of identity—to engage a narrative haunted by the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Renisha McBride.” Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.

In all of her work, whether writing about intimacy or alienation, Rankine’s voice is one of unrelenting candor, and her poetry is some of the most innovative and thoughtful work to emerge in recent years. Her work often crosses genres as it tracks wild and precise movements of mind. In the words of the Judges Citation for the Jackson Prize: “The moral vision of Claudia Rankine’s poetry is astounding. In a body of work that pushes the boundaries of the contemporary lyric, Rankine has managed to make space for meditation and vigorous debate upon some of the most relevant and troubling social themes of the 20th and 21st centuries….These poems do the work of art of the highest order—teaching, chastening, changing, astounding, and humanizing the reader.”

2020 Jean Burden Poetry Series
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
5:30 PM | Golden Eagle Ballrooms

Marilyn Chin event announcement banner, candid photo of Marulyn
Marilyn Chin

The Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics at Cal State LA is excited to host Marilyn Chin at this year's Jean Burden Poetry Reading.

Please click on photo to be taken to event page

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
5:30 PM | Golden Eagle Ballrooms

Kwame Dawes
Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. In 2016 his book, Speak from Here to There, a co-written collection of verse with Australian poet John Kinsella appeared. His most recent collection, City of Bones: A Testament (Northwestern University Press) will appear in 2017. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and teaches at the University of Nebraska and the Pacific MFA Program. He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival.

Often called 'the busiest man in literature', Kwame will celebrate the publication of eight new books in 2016-2017. Click here for an extended biography.

Claiming Freedom Symposium Three-Day Event

February 4, 5, 6

Ben V. Olguín Poetry Reading, November 6:

B.V. Olguin Event Flyer

World War I Commemoration Songs, November 6:

Fan Williams WW1 Commemoration

World War I Commemoration Follow-Up Event, November 7:

  • Interview with Paula Fan and Jeremy Huw Williams (3:30 PM to 4:00 PM; Location TBA)
  • Workshop on Setting Music to Poetry (4:00 PM to 5:00 PM; Location TBA)

Wanda Coleman Event

For more information on this event, click here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

6:00 p.m.

Music Hall, TA 116

Luis Alberto Ambroggio

"Poetry without Borders"

Bilingual Poetry Reading

Luis Ambroggio

more info

November 14-15, 2012
Margaret Hermes

Visiting Writer at CSULA

more info

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Drumvoices with Eugene Redmond

Eugene Redmond

Eugene B. Redmond, Emeritus Professor of English and Founding Editor of Drumvoices Revue, will read from his works and participate in a critical conversation at CSULA...

more info

October 22nd, 9:30 am – 4:20 pm – E&T Courtyard – Under the Tree – Open Mic Recital from 3:15-4:20 pm

more info

Nov 2008

Seni Seneviratne to Visit CSULA


Seni Seneviratne will be in residence at Cal State LA during the first week in November 2008. Seneviratne's ... more

Nov 10, 2008

Dima Hilal to Offer Poetry Reading at CSULA


Dima Hilal will read her poetry at Cal State LA in November 2008. Her visit is made possible by the ... more

January 20-21, 2009

Vanessa Richards, Visiting Poet

Vanessa Richards, Visiting Poet

The multi-talented Afro-Canadian poet-performer-songwriter-filmmaker Vanessa Richards will be the next visiting artist ... more

Feb 2009

Sesshu Foster


Writer and teacher Sesshu Foster will be in residence at Cal State LA on February 24-25, 2009. His visit is made possible ... more

April 7, 2009

Jean Burden Reading to Feature Victor Hernández Cruz

Jean Burden Reading to Feature Victor Hernández Cruz

Victor Hernández Cruz will be the featured reader at the 2009 Jean Burden Poetry Reading. The event will take place on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 6:30pm ... more

May - June 2009

John Siddique is British Council Poet-in-Residence


John Siddique is the fifth annual British Council Poet-in-Residence in partnership with National Endowment for the Arts and Huntington Library from May 15 to June 12. Events will be announced soon! ... more

September 27, 2007

Editor, Writers to Present Writing Collection

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

On Thursday, September 27, poet and editor Nii Ayikwei Parkes will host readings from and a discussion of x-24: unclassified .... more

Oct. 3, 2007

Cal State LA, British Council Host Black Watch Conference

Cal State LA, British Council Host Black Watch Conference

Cal State LA will host a three-way videoconference that will allow students and professors at Cal State LA, Royal Holloway University of London, and the University of Glasgow ... more

Nov. 7-8, 2007

Marisela Norte, East LA Writer and Artist, To Visit

Marisela Norte

Marisela Norte, East Los Angeles based writer and artist, will be in residence at Cal State LA November 7-8, 2007. Norte's visit is .... more

April 2, 2008

Adrienne Rich to Read in Burden Series

Adrienne Rich to Read in Burden Series

Adrienne Rich will be the guest reader at the 2008 Jean Burden Poetry Reading. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 6:30pm ... more

April 16-17, 2008

A. B. Spellman, Poet and Jazz Critic, to Visit CSULA

A. B. Spellman

A. B. Spellman will visit CSULA in April 2008, offering discussions on poetry and jazz and signing copies of his poetry collection ... more

Monday, January 7 to Friday, February 1, 2008

Lemn Sissay

Lemn Sissay

Lemn Sissay will be the British Council UK Writer-in-Residence at CSULA from Monday, January 7 to Friday, February 1, 2008... more

Sunday, June 1, 2008 - 3:00 – 5:00 PM

Poetry/Performance Art Program

Michele Serros

CSULA Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics Presents Michele Serros & Tim Z.Hernandez & Brown Lotus... more