Raffi Joe Wartanian ’21 Named the First Poet Laureate of the City of Glendale

Jessie Shohfi
May 11, 2023

Nonfiction alumnus Raffi Joe Wartanian ’21 has been named the first Poet Laureate of Glendale, California. 

The position was created by the Glendale Arts & Culture commission in response to a grassroots movement of the city’s citizens, and Wartanian was selected as its recipient thanks to his achievements in poetry as well as his vision for the role as a way to foster community-building and solidarity. As the inaugural Poet Laureate, Wartanian will work to involve citizens of various ages and backgrounds in writing, performing, and appreciating poetry. He will also author a poem to capture the culture and diversity that make Glendale great and share some of his work at special events throughout the year. 

“We are thrilled to have Raffi Joe Wartanian serve as our City’s first Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Ardy Kassakhian. “Wartanian’s work reflects the diversity and intricacies of our city and residents. His experience as an educator and organizer, leading creative writing workshops for incarcerated writers, veterans, and youth affected by war through Letters for Peace, a conflict transformation workshop he created, make him a great first Poet Laureate for Glendale.” 

“My appointment brings with it the need to emphasize process—the process of our ceaseless evolution as humans, writers, thinkers, creators, communities, and species,” Wartanian said via Twitter. “My deepest gratitude for the opportunity to share this process with others, to serve Jewel City by helping elevate the voices and experiences of others who have stories to share, and to explore workshops, readings, and other settings where poetry and creativity offer vehicles of individual and collective insight, solidarity, and transformation. . . Ultimately, I believe that the service of a poet laureate is not about any one individual, but about the greater collective spirit and belief that creativity, expression, and connection allow our societies to make meaning of our complex realities and pass on a more tolerant, loving, and beautiful world for future generations.” 

Raffi Joe Wartanian is a writer, musician, and educator who teaches writing at UCLA. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, University of Texas Press, Miami Herald, The Baltimore Sun, Lapham’s Quarterly, Outside Magazine, and elsewhere; and his poetry has appeared in No Dear Magazine, Ararat Magazine, and beyond. Raffi has taught writing to veterans at the Manhattan VA, incarcerated writers at Rikers Island, youth in Armenia, and undergraduates at Columbia University, where he earned an MFA in Writing. He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from The Fulbright Program, Eurasia Partnership Foundation, and Humanity in Action.