Poets celebrate WeHo Pride

This WeHo Pride, be on the lookout for typewriters. LGBTQ+ poetry group Pride Poets will be standing by waiting to listen to your story and turn it into poetry, on the spot, for you to take home.

Pride Poets celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, an accomplishment for this first-of-its-kind program which uplifts the voices of LGBTQ+ writers in direct dialogue with their community. In an age of book bans and LGBTQ+ censorship across the country, Pride Poets gives the community a chance to connect and support these writers, and for the writers to serve their community directly and hear their stories.

You might get a poem from Lambda Literary Award-winner Victor Yates, who himself was a poem-recipient in the program’s first year.

“I stumbled across Pride Poets in 2019 and was blown away. It was this moment of literature, and honestly a break, in the middle of the Pride to get to sit down with a poet and have your own life turned into a poem and given back to you – I knew I had to be part of it the next year.”

Victor Yates.

In its 5 years, Pride Poets has worked with over 200 poets to write more than 3,000 poems for the public. During the pandemic lockdowns, when festivals disappeared, Pride Poets operated a hotline that received over 500 calls during Pride weekend. “This was my Pride, this year,” said one caller, who was isolated in the hospital. Another used the poem written for her and her fiancé as the vows for their Zoom-held wedding. And at the festival, one in every ten or so people who receive a poem are moved to tears.

“Writing custom poems for strangers is a revelation,” says Catherine Gewertz, a founding member of Pride Poets, who covers the education beat as a journalist when she’s not churning out poems on a typewriter. “In an age of isolation, it creates surprising, tender bonds that come from feeling seen. As the poet behind the typewriter, I get the gift of these unexpected connections, and the experience of deepening my writing in surprising ways.”

The group is the brainchild of Brian Sonia-Wallace, who started writing for strangers a decade ago at a typewriter and now runs typewriter poetry company RENT Poet. “We write at a lot of straight weddings and corporate events,” Sonia-Wallace says, “so it’s been meaningful to bring this transformative practice back to my community.” Sonia-Wallace has just been announced as a 2024 Rainbow Key Awardee for this work by the City of West Hollywood, where he formerly served as Poet Laureate.

Sonia-Wallace isn’t the only Pride Poet to become a Poet Laureate, with founding members Carla Sameth (Altadena) and Jen Cheng (West Hollywood) receiving this title in the years since the group started and helping to change the narrative of poetry from an ivy tower eccentricity to a powerful tool for community organizing. 

In addition to bringing together established writers, Pride Poets serves as an incubator for emerging LGBTQ+ talent, supporting participating poets in publishing, performing, and teaching. Beyond Pride, members have supported each other in writing and beyond, from appearing on a game show together to attending a gay rodeo. 

Ironically, many Pride Poets say their experience writing poetry is what has brought them to Pride for the first time, or the first time in a long day. Poets are famously introverts, and Pride events can be overwhelming. Equally ironically, many of the poets have embraced their identity as poets for the first time since starting this practice. Many have other writing careers as novelists, journalists, screenwriters. Even founding member Hank Henderson, who ran LGBTQ+ literary series Homocentric at Stories Cafe for ten years, marveled, “I wrote more poems in two days at Pride than I had in the two years before that.”

Pride Poets receives funding from the City of West Hollywood. “It’s rare that governmental art funders get to see firsthand the emotional impact of the projects they help bring to life. Throughout the last five years I’ve been blessed to have seen countless tears, hugs, and genuine smiles as a direct result of the amazing work of Pride Poets.”

Arts Coordinator Mike Che.
Confirmed poets for 2024 include:

Priya Chatwani


Catherine Gewertz

Victor Yates

Jen Cheng

Jay Baldwin

Alexia Jasmene

Michael Narkunski

Timothy Nang



Valerie, darling.

José Rios

Jeffrey McCray

Jair Bula

Hank Henderson

Brian Sonia-Wallace 

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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