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Meet San Fernando Valley Poet, Educator, and Activist: Jessica M. Wilson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica M. Wilson.

Jessica M., please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was introduced to poetry when I was 13 — it all started with the Beat Poets, Shakespeare, and Edgar Allan Poe. I fell in love… Later that year, my first poem took shape in a stream of consciousness. I was very surprised and excited for what I had created. I knew since that moment that I wanted to be a Poet!

I stayed on track — finished High School, looked for a University where I could study Creative Writing… I got my BA in Creative Writing in 2003, and my Master of Fine Arts in Writing in 2007. I was excited to be a Poet in the world, but shortly after Grad School, I was wondering where all the Poets were… Where is my creative community? Where can I continue to grow and share my art? In 2009, I started the Los Angeles Poet Society! I was shocked that LA, being such a huge metropolis, didn’t have a legitimate Poet Society, so I took heed of the call and started “building bridges to our creative communities”, heartbeats of art in LA County and even beyond!

This has been an amazing experience; introducing me to a network of active Poets and Artists, Publishers, and Zines…and I have even had the chance to teach poetry and learn from others. It’s been amazing!

I am excited that this November will mark 7 years of the Los Angeles Poet Society! We are a non-profit community organization, fiscally sponsored by the historic Beyond Baroque Literary Foundation. I feel so blessed and fortunate for all the amazing partnerships we’ve made over the years and can’t wait to see what else unfolds!

Has it been a smooth road?
It was tough, especially in the beginning, to come out and tell others about the LA Poet Society, when I was the only one who knew about it…was forming it.

Getting our legit website up was also a challenge because we have no budget or finances, and much of what has been accomplished has been out of pocket for the love of it.

I’d like to see us establish a small budget for outreach and promotion, so we can give our members pens, shirts, or bookmarks… something that says thank you and that you are a part of a bigger entity.

Any predictions for the industry over the next few years?
I definitely would like to see the Los Angeles Poet Society expand, offering more opportunities for our members that would include a small press that would publish emerging artists and poets. I’d like to see the city of LA officially adopt us, or endorse us in some way, perhaps during national poetry month, or give us recognition for the work we’ve done for diverse and creative LA! In 10 years I’d like us to have our own facility where we could host our literary events, book parties,mane offer workshops to the community to include poetry, creative writing, and literacy.

What has been the primary challenge you’ve faced?
My biggest challenge has been in finding funding. I’d like to see us out in bigger events and shows and offer swag, takeaways, chapbooks, to our participants and to the general community. That all takes a budget. We are in no deficit of venues, however, we’d definitely like to make our mark with the general community, and also offer more physical treats to our members.

Our operating budget over the years has been slim to none.

Let’s change gears – is there any advice you’d like to give?
I would advise others to be open and excited about what you’re doing. Always remember that you are the driving force in heartbeat behind your operation, and people will be as excited as you are because positive energy is contagious and also attracts very good outcomes. I would also say to be open minded to other similar organizations or industries that share your philosophy, or mission, and partner with them in the events that you do put together because you can make a bigger splash with more people. It’s all about community building. That is the glue behind a successful vision.

Contact Info:

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Image Credit:
Black and white photo attached — photo by Nicole Fournier

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