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New Los Angeles poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez: ‘My refuge was the public library'

by Robert Garrova | Off-Ramp®

From left to right: City Librarian John F. Szabo; Mayor Garcetti; LA Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez; and Cultural Affairs General Manager Danielle Brazell Gary Leonard; Courtesy LAPL

Writer Luis J. Rodriguez has done time in jail. He's been homeless and a member of a gang. But Rodriguez has also published 15 books and run for California governor. 

Now he's Los Angeles's second poet laureate. 

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For Mayor Eric Garcetti, Rodriguez was the clear choice for the job. "Luis Rodriguez is the embodiment of Los Angeles. Our struggles, our challenges. Our successes and our triumphs," Garcetti said. 

During his acceptance speech, Rodriguez shared his difficult past and some of his first experiences with the library:

"At 15, I dropped out of school, got kicked out of the house, and briefly ended up homeless, mostly in downtown L.A. I slept in abandoned cars, alongside the L.A. river, church pews, behind dumpsters, in shuttered warehouse buildings. My refuge was the central public library, where I'd go during the day and spend hours reading books. I loved books."

Now, with five grandchildren, a great-grandson and a successful career both as a writer and activist, Rodriguez finds himself back at the place that inspired him all those years ago. 

"Full circle, here I am. At that same Central Library, standing before you as the city's poet laureate," Rodriguez said. "I'm apparently going to have an office here as well."

Rodriguez calls poetry his "deep soul-talk," a "transformative energy" he hopes to foster in L.A. How does he feel about his new job? 

"It's destiny. I don't know how else to explain it," Rodriguez said. 

The "Extra Audio" on this page is Rodriguez reading from his "Love Letter to Los Angeles" at the announcement. 

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