What the NEA Means to Me

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It is strange to be an American watching America from afar right now. I live in England, near the village of St. Albans, which has been continuously inhabited since Roman times. I often wonder what it must have been like to be a Roman living in Britain around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. News would arrive over weeks and months that illiterate Vandals had again plundered Rome, and burned its great libraries to the ground. Books, after all, were useless to them as compared with weapons and gold.

News that the current US administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and its sister organisations arrived in my social media feed at the speed of light, and hit me straight in the gut.

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Opening Community to Poetry

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Building a sense of community in a city as fragmented and dispersed as Los Angeles is truly an accomplishment. Building it from a diverse background is amazing. Yet building it upon a form as often gentrified, obscured, and misunderstood as poetry is nothing short of a miracle.

Today I witnessed poets from around Southern California and people from the community of Highland Park connect with poetry in an honest and profound way. It made sense — after all, the Arroyo Arts Collective had been bringing poems into this neighborhood to display in shop windows for the past ten years. Not only that, but they encouraged and sponsored translation of each poem into another language spoken in the community — over 20 languages in total, from Vietnamese to Persian.

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Opening Windows to Poetry

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A few months ago, I discovered that one of my poems that won the Poetry In The Windows V competition had been selected to be anthologized in a volume called Open Windows celebrating ten years of this biannual Los Angeles based competition. Due to a lack of udpated contact information, I just received word that the prepublication and book signing party will be held in Highland Park on April 17th. This competition, the poems, the poets, and the community spirit involved is truly a well kept secret in LA. I highly recommend checking it out and picking up a copy of the anthology.

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