As a kid growing up in East Los Angeles, poet Luis Rodriguez ran with a gang and was in and out of jail. He did many drugs, including heroin. At 15, he dropped out of school, got kicked out of his house, and become homeless in downtown Los Angeles. He eventually sought refuge within Los Angeles’s Central Library.
More than 40 years later, he shared that same library’s stage with politicians and a celebrated teen poet.
“Poetry saved my life,” he said.
Last fall, Get Lit-Words Ignite, Mayor Eric Garcetti, The Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles Public Library celebrated poet Luis J. Rodriguez’s completion of his term as the city of Los Angeles Poet Laureate and literary ambassador and welcomed Rhiannon McGavin, the new Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate.
The event also commemorated Carlos Segovia, a young poet, and US Marine.
Segovia was shot in South Los Angeles last September in a tragic act of random violence. He was 19 when he died, and will be remembered as a poet who often wrote about being an immigrant determined to make it in the United States.
He was known in his community as a “champion of the underdog and a beloved person to all who knew him.”
Both Segovia and Rodriguez experienced the transformative power of poetry. It helped Segovia reveal his feelings about immigration, and allowed Rodriguez to transcend a life on the streets.
McGavin on other hand started writing poems to attract the attention of a cute boy. Despite the fact she never won his affection, she has performed original poetry on Grace Cavalieri’s “Poet and the Poem” podcast, NPR, and at venues from the Troubadour to Lincoln Center. She is also a 2016 Young Arts Finalist in Writing for Spoken Word.
She has already begun enhancing the presence and raising the power of literature, poetry, and the spoken word. Her duties include but are not limited to providing at least 6 public poetry classes, leading the coordination of Central Library’s month-long poetry celebration in April and write one or more commemorative poems about Los Angeles.
Best of all, she will receive $10,000 for engaging Los Angeles visitors and residents about the value of poetry, the written word, and creative expression.
“Poetry can break barriers down, “ she said. “Young people have this power!”
Get Lit - Words Ignite is a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that brings poetry to more than 100 middle and high schools in the city. To donate to the Carlos Segovia Scholarship Fund, please click here.