Armenian American Raffi Joe Wartanian named Glendale’s first Poet Laureate

Raffi Joe Wartanian is 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, Asbarez reports.

As 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 comprised 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. 

Raffi Joe Wartanian was selected 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 and 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.

Raffi’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). Raffi 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, Raffi 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 multi-day performance and workshop that united Armenians and indigenous American tribes 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 Mayor Ardy 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.” 

Known as the “Jewel City,” Glendale is the fourth largest city of Los Angeles County. With a population of more than 200,000, Glendale is a thriving cosmopolitan city that is rich in history, culturally diverse, and offers nearly 50 public parks, and easy access to a municipal airport. It is the home to a vibrant business community, with major companies in healthcare, entertainment, manufacturing, retail, and banking. 

Founded in 1907, the Glendale Library, Arts & Culture Department includes eight neighborhood libraries including the Brand Library & Art Center, a regional visual arts and music library and performance venue housed in the historic 1904 mansion of Glendale pioneer Leslie C. Brand, and the Central Library, a 93,000 square foot center for individuals and groups to convene, collaborate and create. The department also serves as the chief liaison to the Glendale Arts and Culture Commission which works to continually transform Glendale into an ever-evolving arts destination. Glendale Library Arts & Culture is supported in part through the efforts of the Glendale Library Arts & Culture Trust. 

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