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Best Local Poets In Los Angeles

(credit: Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images)

Poetry speaks to the heart about all that is the human condition. It can be political or romantic, intellectual or silly, but in every respect, good poetry evokes meanings that can only be expressed in the brevity of broken prose. In a sense, it exploits the mind’s ability to imagine meanings the poet alludes too. Regardless of the theme, a poet seeks to stimulate the reader to take a path of deeper understanding. In the Southland, where entertainment is overly commercialized, these poets intimately entertain in a personal way.

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(credit: Roger Snider)

David St. John

University of Southern California professor David St. John is likely the most honored and respected poet of the Southland and has received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as the Hardison Poetry Prize. St. John's poetry evokes a spirit of openness and directness and is quite unique. His fellowships include awards from the Rome Fellowship in Literature, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to name a few. In addition, St. John has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The New Republic and several poetry journals highlighting his poetry. As a professor of creative writing, he brings the perspective of an accomplished writer and poet to his students. The Fresno native, born in 1949, now lives in Venice, California.

(credit: Carol Muske-Dukes)

Carol Muske-Dukes

Originating from Minnesota, Carol Muske-Dukes has been honored as the California State Poet Laureate for her excellent writing and poetry. With awards from The Guggenheim, NEA, Ingram/Merrill and others, she writes for the NY Times, LA Times Book Review, SLATE, The New Yorker, Paris Review as well as the Huffington Post. Over her career, she has published 8 books of poems, 4 novels, 2 collections of essays and anthologies including her latest, "Twin Cities" (Penguin, 2011). Other titles include "Camouflage" (University of Pittsburgh, 1975), "Octave Above Thunder" (1997) and "Red Trousseau" (1993). As an essayist, she has written about women and poetry, and as a novelist, she has been published under titles like "Life after Death" and "Channeling Mark Twain". In addition, Carol is the founder and the original director of the University of Southern California’s PhD Program in Creative Writing and Literature as well as a professor at USC.

Related: Best Poetry Events In Los Angeles

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Jack Grapes

As an actor, teacher, playwright and publisher of an international literary journal (ONTHEBUS), Jack Grapes does not do poetry as a sideline. Grapes is an accomplished author and has written over a dozen books of poetry with titles such as "Breaking Down the Surface of the World" and the "Eyes of Deer." L.A. Weekly’s literary guide describes his work as a middle ground “between pop culture and philosophy.” His poetry has been published in national anthologies and has been compared to leading poets from around the world. His poetry has been variously described as for “every man,” as cutting to the “bone of basic human truth” and without “pretense.” With a wealth of creative experience, his poetry is accessible and insightful.

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(credit Mark Savage)

Rafael F.J. Alvarado

This Southland native has been writing poetry since age 10. Born in Hollywood, he was inspired by his granduncle Luis Cardoza Y Aragon of Guatemala. He came under the influence of his grandmother Laura Cardoza Muller, who was an accomplished poet. His online World Wide Word Radio Network focuses on the many aspects of modern poetry and writing. Working with several other outstanding Southlanders, he interviews authors, reviews new publications and discusses the art of writing with a focus on the “new media.” His work is direct and about striving with one's self.

Suzanne Lummis
(credit: Suzanne Lummis)

Suzanne Lummis

Suzanne Lummis Loves poetry so much that she considers herself an "arts organizer". Best known as one of the organizers of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, Suzanne has opened many other art festivals since the late '80s and has recently started the Newer Poets Readings which is part of the Los Angeles Library Aloud Series. As a frequent guest host for KPFK radio's Poet's Cafe, she is also an accomplished original poet who spends most of her time professionally teaching creative writing and poetry. With her creative spirit, she instills her love of art into her students inspiring a new generation of poets.

Related: Best Amateur Nights In Los Angeles

Robert Cuthbert is a freelance writer covering all things Los Angeles. His work can be found on

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