The City Council appointed Ronald Koertge as South Pasadena’s Poet Laureate at their June 6 meeting. California State Poet Laurate Dana Gioia, another South Pasadena resident, recently nominated Ron Koertge as South Pasadena Poet Laureate in a letter to the City Council. Gioia stated that while the position is chiefly honorific, it “will pay the reward that ours is a city that prizes language and culture.” The City of South Pasadena had never had its own Poet Laureate before.
Other cities in California, including Los Angeles and West Hollywood, previously appointed an accomplished writer to serve as their own official ambassador for the literary arts. According to Koertge, he will serve “as an official ambassador of South Pasadena’s vibrant literary culture, promoting poetry in the city, stimulating the transformative impact of poetry in the local community, and creating excitement about the written word.”
Nationally-honored poet and novelist Ron Koertge, a South Pasadena resident for more than 35 years, is the author of 10 acclaimed poetry collections including “Dairy Cows,” “Life on the Edge of the Continent,” “Selected Poems,” “Making Love to Roget’s Wife,” “Indigo,” and “Fever.” Koertge has also penned 10 popular novels for young people including “Stoner and Spaz,” “The Brimstone Journals,”
“Shakespeare Bats Cleanup” and has been accorded a multitude of prestigious honors and awards for them, including an American Library Association Best Book, Friends of American Library Service’s Best of the Best, Friends of American Writers’ Young People’s Literature Award, a Booklist Book of the Decade, a Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s Award for an Outstanding Work of Fiction for Young Adults, and twice a PEN (West) Choice for Children’s Writing;
In addition, Mr. Koertge has taught writing at a number of American universities, including Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota and at Pasadena City College for more than 37 years. Koertge has been a prominent fixture on the Los Angeles poetry scene for decades and former Poet Laurate of the United States Billy Collins has called him “the wisest, most entertaining wise guy in American poetry.”
Ron’s poem ‘Negative Space” inspired an animated film of the same name that was nominated for a 2017 Academy Award in the Short Film category. Koertge has been awarded an National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a California Arts Council grant, and had his work featured in the Best American Poetry series,
“Poetry 180,” and “American Life in Poetry.” At the City’s Memorial Day commemoration event on May 28, Ron Koertge read the classic poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae. Planning is already underway for the next Library event featuring Ron Koertge and other poets.
The South Pasadena Public Library has a storied history of presenting distinguished poets (and other writers) in its popular Author Night series. The impressive list includes the last three California State Poet Laureates: Juan Felipe Herrera (later appointed the Poet Laureate of the United States), Al Young (who twice performed with Suezenne Grant’s Chamber Jazz), and Dana Gioia, who teamed up with Ron Koertge for the ‘Poetic Doubleheader’ before a large, enthusiastic audience on May 12.
Discussions are underway regarding Poet Laureate Ron Koertge’s inaugural literary event at the Library and will be announced as soon as they are finalized.