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Glendale Chooses Its First Poet Laureate

Raffi Wartanian was recently selected as the city of Glendale’s first poet laureate.
The position serves as an ambassador for Glendale’s rich culture and diversity, promoting the art of poetry.
As the poet laureate, Wartanian will develop a project that engages community members of all ages in poetry writing, performance and poetry appreciation; write a poem that celebrates Glendale’s rich culture and diversity; and read poetry aloud at special events throughout the city.
Following a grassroots call from a citizen of Glendale, the request of Mayor Ardy Kassakhian, and the approval of the City Council, Glendale Library, Arts & Culture created the city’s first poet laureate program and requested applications from resident poets. The selection panel was composed of Arts & Culture Commissioner Sevana Zadorian, Los Angeles poet laureate Lynne Thompson, poet and founder of the Los Angeles Press Linda Ravenswood, and poet and instructor at Glendale Community College Julie Gamberg.
Wartanian was chosen as Glendale’s first poet laureate in recognition of his accomplishments in poetry and his vision for the “Glendale Poet Laureate as someone who can utilize writing to promote self-expression, find common ground across communities and foster solidarity that celebrates diversity while embracing individuality.”
His poems have appeared in No Dear Magazine, h-pem, Ararat Magazine, Armenian Poetry Project and The Armenian Weekly. He has performed live with the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and International Armenian Literary Alliance. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Outside Magazine, Lapham’s Quarterly, The Baltimore Sun, Miami Herald, and elsewhere.
Wartanian’s hybrid piece “A Letter to My Great-Grandson” is forthcoming in the anthology “We Are All Armenian: Voices from the Diaspora” (University of Texas Press, March 2023). Wartanian currently teaches writing with UCLA Writing Programs, and his work has received grant and fellowship support from the Fulbright Program, Humanity in Action and the Eurasia Partnership Foundation.
In 2017, Wartanian collaborated with Abril Books, the Lakota People’s Law Project, and In His Shoes to launch Days of Solidarity: Celebrating Armenian and Native American Survival, a multiday performance and workshop that united Armenians and Indigenous people in Glendale. Raffi currently serves on the advisory board of the International Armenian Literary Alliance and advises the Tumanyan International Storytelling Festival.
“We are thrilled to have Raffi Joe Wartanian serve as our city’s first poet laureate,” said Kassakhian. “Wartanian’s work reflects the diversity and intricacies of our city and residents. His experience as an educator and organizer, leading creative writing workshops for incarcerated writers, veterans, and youth affected by war through Letters for Peace, a conflict transformation workshop he created, make him a great first poet laureate for Glendale.”

First published in the April 1 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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