News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 2 to 3 p.m.
Arts & Entertainment

Eloise Klein Healy named LA's first poet laureate

L.A.'s poet laureate Eloise Klein Healy.
L.A.'s poet laureate Eloise Klein Healy.
Eloise Klein Healy

Listen to story

Download this story 10MB

Here in Los Angeles, we've got beaches, great restaurants, museums, and now, we have our own poet laureate. She's 69-year-old Sherman Oaks resident Eloise Klein Healy, an author, publisher and educator. Chosen by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his Poet Laureate Task Force, she officially takes the position today.

Healy will receive $10,000 a year for her new post, which will run over a two-year term awarded by the Department of Cultural Affairs. 

Healy has plans to write poems about Los Angeles, and to take part in efforts to bring more poetry into public places, like Dodger Stadium. 

KPCC's Patt Morrison sat down with Healy to talk generally about what a poet laureate does, and what Healy plans to do in the position.

Interview Highlights:

What will you be doing in your new title?
"One of the tasks is actually to write some poems about the city, I don't think that that would be a problem because a lot of the things that I write do involve things that happen in town. I'm very interested in landscapes thats always been very important to me, to be very engaged in where I am. Not only the politics of where I am, but also the place. I love hillsides, I love the way the freeway goes through things, so I just feel like its not a hard thing for me to say, 'Ok, I can write a few poems about the city.'"

Are there any poetry-related projects you hope to work on?
I really feel that its a good idea if you have a civic, public responsibility that you go out and hang out with the people. i think i want to put poetry in places where people don't typically expect it. Like up in Dodger Stadium. Why couldn't we have a short poem about baseball by a Los Angeles poet up on the Jumbotron? I think the problem for poetry is a lot of people just don't feel like they have a point of connection, where they feel like its for them. Maybe they felt in school that they didn't understand it, they don't belong, they're not smart, but I feel like that's something one always deals with when you're a poet is helping people discover that, yeah, it's for everyone."

Can you change the assumption that poetry is a frill, and not a necessity in life?
"Well, case in point what happened after 9/11? Everyone wanted to have something from poets because the desire to connect to deepest deepest feeling often is located in language. When you love somebody you want to tell them in the best way, when you're sad you want the enormity of it to be registered. That's what we do, poets, we find the language that carries those weights. If you're a human being and you feel things and you attempt to express yourself, then you understand what poets do for their work."

Why do you write poetry about every day life?
"When I first started writing I used to get in a lot of trouble because I was a feminist poet writing about cars, and they would say to me why are you doing that and I would say have you ever been to Los Angeles? Where am I spending 40 percent of my time? I'm in a car, if I lived in a different kind of place I'd probably write a different kind of poetry."

Healy reads two of the poems she submitted for consideration:

You care about today's news. And you're not alone.

Join others who support independent journalism.