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Say What? Library Program Promotes Teen Poetry

Free teen poetry workshops are being offered at the Arroyo Seco Library throughout the month of May.

Librarian Amy Bradley is introducing poetry to Highland Park's teenagers, one reading a time.

Bradley, a librarian in residence at the Arroyo Seco Branch Library, has launched the Say What? Teen Poetry program, which for the last month has been bringing renowned Angeleno poets to Highland Park to lead workshops for local high-school students. 

Among the poets to already stop by the are Douglas Kearney, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo and Aaron Belz. Also appearing for a special reading last weekend was critically acclaimed poet Luis J. Rodriguez, whose autobiography It Calls You Back, earned rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times.

Bradley explained that, as a librarian in residence, she was tasked with spearheading a program that would engage community members, and that could eventually be implemented in other libraries throughout the city.

She said that she hoped the program would provide access to poetry to those teens between the ages of 11-19 who aren't getting it at home or in school.

"We want to get kids who don't normally come into the library."

So far, about 10 teens have been showing up to bi-weekly workshops, with about 75-percent being repeat participants.

Through the program, the poets teach "active and engaging workshops," after which the teens are encouraged to produce their own work. (Click here to see some examples of the students work.)

Workshops will be held throughout the rest of the month, with the next one scheduled for Friday, May 11 from 4-5 p.m. with poet Luivette Resto.

Other upcoming dates include:

Kate Durbin - Tuesday, May 15: 4-5 p.m.
Reynaldo Macias - Friday, May 18: 4-5 p.m.
Gloria Alvarez - Tuesday, May 22: 4-5 p.m.

The program will conclude on Sunday, May 27, when teens participating in the program will be the featured poets at 's La Palabra poetry reading.

Bradley said the opportunity to collaborate with local cultural institutions like Avenue 50 Studio was part of the reason she chose Highland Park as the location for the pilot program.

"I specialize in arts and literature, so I wanted to create a pilot program that focused on that," Bradley said. "This area has a rich arts culture and we wanted to build on that."

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