• Photos by villagepoets.com.

      (Photo and logo – villagepoets.com.)

      This fall the Sunland-Tujunga Poetry and Literature Committee will begin accepting applications for the next poet laureate of Sunland-Tujunga.

      By Joe DeCenzo

      The poet laureate is an esteemed local ambassador who uses their skill as a crafted writer and public speaker to promote literacy and extol the virtues of life in the foothills.  The position was established in 1999 to support and promote the colony of writers that resides here and to honor the legacy of John Steven McGroarty who built his home in Tujunga and served as the California State Poet Laureate from 1933 to 1944.

      The tradition of poet laureate dates back hundreds of years to the Italian court of the 14th century when exceptional writers were lauded for their achievements and appointed for life.  The Sunland-Tujunga poet laureate, however, serves a two year term and is a champion for the foothill community by writing an ode for a special event, some verse for the ground breaking of a public park or simply addressing a service organization by rendering some words of insight and inspiration.  The laureate has a passion for the area we call home; for the mountains, flora and fauna of the San Gabriels.  The laureate has a thirst for learning the history of our community and celebrating the diversity of cultures that enrich our neighborhoods.  To that regard, the applicant should live in the boundary between Lake View Terrace and La Canada-Flintridge, which includes Shadow Hills, Sunland-Tujunga, La Crescenta and Montrose as well.


      The committee seeks applicants at least 18 years of age whose writing is crafted and relates to a broad audience with subjects reflecting the human condition.  The qualified applicant should have a history of community involvement and possess a voice that can represent the district giving wings to the heart of the foothills.

      Published author, historian and Bolton Hall Museum docent Marlene Hitt was elected as the first poet laureate of Sunland-Tujunga in 1999.  She served as poet laureate until 2001:

      For seventeen years we have offered the community a person to represent our beautiful location and a place to gather and hear poets from all over the Southland sharing expressions of life as we perceive it.

      I’ve enjoyed interacting with all the local organizations as a poet, but moreover, it encouraged me to share my writing with more than just the computer screen.

      She currently serves on the planning committee for Village Poets that host a monthly poetry reading at Bolton Hall Museum.

      (LtoR) Joe Desceno, Elsa Frausto, Dorothy Skiles.

      (LtoR) Joe Desceno, Elsa Frausto, Dorothy Skiles.

      Current laureate

      The current laureate is Elsa S. Frausto.  She is a native of Buenos Aires and has lived in Tujunga more than twenty years.  When asked about her goals during her term of service, she replied, “I worked to include the many immigrant communities that make up the larger one of the foothills promoting Armenian, Korean and Spanish poetry and writing (original and translation) in readings and publication.  I believe that poetry unites people and voices while encouraging self expression and freedom.”  Ms. Frausto established and currently runs the Wide Open Reading Series that invites authors of varied styles and musicians to present their work.  The reading typically meets the first Saturday of each month at 3:00 p.m. at the Sunland-Tujunga Branch Library.

      Passing of the Laurels

      The newly elected laureate will begin their term of service on April 23, 2017 when they will be honored at the “Passing of the Laurels” ceremony.  The ceremony will be open to the public and attended by city and district leaders.

      The McGroarty Arts Center will host.  Applications are available here and be must be postmarked by January 15, 2017.  For further information, contact Marlene Hitt (818) 951-1041.

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