Poet Laureate Invites All to Celebrate Poetry

“Without poetry and the arts, we are lesser beings, and the community is lesser for it,” outgoing Malibu Poet Laureate Ann Buxie told the audience at the Changing of the Verse community gathering. At the October event marking the end of her term as Malibu poet laureate, Buxie welcomed Nathan Hassall as incoming 2023-2025 poet laureate and celebrated the succession of local poets serving in the important role.

Buxie served as poet laureate from September 2021 to August 2023, preceded by John Struloeff from October 2020 to June 2021, Ellen Reich from March 2019 to April 2020 and Ricardo Means Ybarra from March 2017 to March 2019.

The event featured readings from former poet laureates, including Ricardo Means Ybarra, who shared his poem, “Swimming Laps” and noted, “The poet laureate thing did not happen without all of you—all of you poets, all the artists, the advocates; it’s really a beautiful thing,” he said, adding a special shoutout to Ann Buxie and Ellen Reich “for leading us through the valley of the dark, when there was no poetry, very little art; they created the whole thing and kept us going; they had that little lamp out there—we were following you!”

Turning over the spotlight to incoming Poet Laureate Nathan Hassall, Means Ybarra shared how he was “immediately struck” by Hassall’s writing when he attended a poetry workshop.

“There’s this elusive, concrete quality to his poetry, as if 99 moths are landing on you in the dark; it’s beautiful!"

Appointed by the City Council in August to serve as the 2023-2025 poet laureate, Hassall first came to Malibu 6 years ago—thanks to love! With a master's degree in creative writing and a focus on poetry from the University of Kent, UK, he has published numerous poems, interviews and reviews in various magazines. His chapbook of experimental haiku—dregsongs from blab cartilage—was published in 2018 by Bones: A Journal of Haiku, and several poems, including "Last Days Before the Wake," nominated for a Pushcart Prize, have been published.

He also works as a freelance book editor, helping authors bring their books to excellence in various genres, including poetry, psychology, self-help and memoir, and is co-founder of The Burnal Co., an emotional well-being organization. Now married to the woman who brought him to town, Hassall is eager to step into his new role as poet laureate.

“I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of some incredible trailblazers,” said Hassall, who enjoys being part of the Malibu Writer's Circle and honing his craft as a prose writer. In addition to promoting poetry in the community by engaging in initiatives like teaching in local schools, Hassall has attended events such as Caffeinated Verse and was a featured reader at Jubilations where he recited poems inspired by a transformational experience at a "Finding Your Voice" singing workshop at Esalen in Big Sur.

During his term as poet laureate, Nathan seeks to expand the number of people in the city partaking in the ancient art of poetry, while also helping to inspire those who are already active in the community. He holds a strong belief in poetry’s potential to transform consciousness, heal the mind and open the gates of dialogue to difficult and often buried subjects. He plans to run workshops that encourage writing poetry as a vessel for increased well-being, inner knowing, and emotional and spiritual growth.

He looks forward to leading complimentary poetry workshops open to poets of all levels.

“I want to focus on generative poetry, so rather than a critique workshop, it will bring in poems that we’ve already written and we’re going to sit down and we’re going to write together, and we might be able to share within that context,” said Hassall. “I thought that’s the best way that can bring people of all levels and experience and confidence and we can sit and write together and celebrate that, so I want it to be like no barrier to entry for it.”

Upcoming events include Caffeinated Verse, with a featured reader, followed by an open mic format in person at the Malibu Library at 11 a.m. This month’s workshop takes place Saturday, December 16, and features Sophie Klahr.

At The Ripple Effect: A Generative Poetry Workshop, Hassall will use prompts and examples to explore different forms of poetry, inspire poetry approaches and encourage new works.

Jubilations is an open-air event and features selected poets, an open mic and conversation aimed to celebrate joy in a time of whelming possibilities, to give voice to the true nature of vitality modeled on the natural world and to attend to the power of love and joy. Events are open to the public and free of charge.

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