The West Hollywood City Council last night confirmed the appointment of Charles Flowers as the city’s third poet laureate.
Flowers assumes the position on Wednesday, succeeding Kim Dowers, who has served as poet laureate since October 2016. The city’s first poet laureate, Steven Reigns, was named to the position in October 2014. In its description of the position, the city’s Economic Development Department states that “the poet laureate position is an honorary position that serves as the official ambassador of West Hollywood’s vibrant literary culture, using the position to promote poetry in West Hollywood.”
The poet laureate gets an annual stipend of $2,500. The first city poet laureate, Steven Reigns, launched a Poetry Month banner project to increase awareness of poetry, living poets and National Poetry Month. Poet laureate Kim Dower created two citywide collaborative poems using lines submitted by over 100 community members. Both poems were transformed into posters displayed on bus shelters and elsewhere in the community. The nominee is chosen by a committee that includes representatives from the West Hollywood Library and the city’s arts program.
A memo to the City Council states that the qualities that led to Flowers being chosen include that:
–He has a deep connection to the City of West Hollywood, having lived in West Hollywood since 2010, and worked and organized events in the city.
–His submitted poetry samples were heartfelt, well written, and beautifully captured the unique essence of West Hollywood.
–He is connected to and respected in the literary and arts communities, having in the past served as executive director of Lambda Literary; and worked for Arts For LA, an arts advocacy organization.
–He published an LGBT literary journal called Bloom for a decade, involving over 200 writers.
–His proposed programming involved many different segments of the West Hollywood community and showed a deep understanding of the City and its population.
–He has a wealth of experience organizing literary events. He has served as a panelist, moderator and exhibitor at numerous West Hollywood book fairs. He has also organized literary readings as part of One City One Pride.
By Charles Flowers
It’s late May & jacaranda petals cover Kings Road,
small purple blossoms across the asphalt & sidewalks,
each car’s shine blotted & stained. Yet their beauty
cannot be denied. On my first encounter with their
purple light, I fell into the land of Dr. Seuss,
where bright trees & a talking cat can teach a boy a lesson.
Imagine myself in a forest of purple [I wish . . .]
where melancholy Sondheim sings to me [I wish . . .
more than anything] & I am back in Tennessee,
finding my mother alone on our screened porch,
listening to the summer night and the heart’s litany:
to be single, to be married, to have a child.
My heart was just beginning to dream its own tale,
a prince to rescue me from a Baptist dragon [I wish . . .].
Today, a purple tree & a plangent showtune
remind me how the heart endures, its chorus of desire
never abandons me, season after season.