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Anaheim announces its first poet laureate

Anaheim announces its first poet laureate
Grant Hier, center, Anaheim’s inaugural poet laureate, is introduced by Mayor Tom Tait during a City Coucil meeting on May 15. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The city of Anaheim introduced its inaugural poet laureate.

Mayor Tom Tait welcomed poet Grant Hier during a May 15 City Hall meeting, acknowledging Hier's contributions to poetry anthologies and work as a literature and creative writing professor at Laguna College of Art + Design in Laguna Beach. Hier formerly served as the school's faculty senate president and chair of liberal arts and art history as well as winning the Prize Americana award for his book on Southern California history and culture, "Untended Garden."

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"The naming of a poet laureate and literary ambassador for Anaheim makes a bold statement about the importance of the arts in our community, and poetry is about community," Hier said during the ceremony.

The position originated when Carol Latham, a longtime active community member and Muzeo community outreach coordinator, proposed the idea to the City Council. The council granted approval and called for applications.

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Eligibility for the post required applicants to have demonstrated their commitment to poetry through publishing their work, giving public performances and proving that they were able to teach workshops and lead collaborative, community-partnered events. The selection for the position was made by a panel, composed of Latham and members from Anaheim-based school districts and the Anaheim Public Library Board. It is chaired by a member of the Cultural and Heritage Commission.

"He's the world's greatest mentor," said Kelsey Kleiman, one of Hier's students who attended the ceremony. "He introduced me to poetry, which gave me the ability to free write, and that just opened the door to writing in itself, which is a huge open avenue for artistry."

Mike Stice, a liberal arts faculty member and communications manager at LCAD, said Hier mentored him as an adjunct faculty member.

"He led by example as a human being and as a scholar — one of the greatest things that I take away from our relationship is how he comports himself as just a stand-up guy, just as a citizen in the way he walks the Earth," Stice said.

The term of Hier's honorary appointment is for two years and is unpaid. During his term, his duties include providing free public workshops, leading community-partnered events and providing at least two public readings of either original works created for the events or past works appropriate to the occasion and audience.

Hier's roots run deep in Anaheim. He and his wife, Laura, who also is a teacher, live in a house that his parents bought nearly 60 years ago. The tree on the cover of "Untended Garden" was planted by his grandmother when his family moved into the home.

During the ceremony, Hier announced the release of his latest book of poetry, "The Difference Between."

Before ending his speech, Hier read a poem about the sanctity of his childhood experience in Anaheim and he declared his intentions for his new post.

"Rather than attempt to be Anaheim's voice, by organizing community-partnered events that are inclusive, I aim to facilitate ways for the city to speak for herself, encouraging everyone to read and write along with me as I visit our schools, our libraries, our businesses," Hier said. "Celebrating ourselves, singing ourselves — from the old growth to the new buds."

Scott Feinblatt is a contributor to Times Community News.

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