Speed Reads

poetry in motion

The art of poetry is alive and well in South Los Angeles

Hiram Sims' lifelong love of poetry is now benefiting his neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

"Poetry's like a frequency that I can hear above all other frequencies," Sims told The Christian Science Monitor, adding that while some people "just walk right past it," once he hears the sound, "I pay attention."

Sims has long been inspired by everything from the words of Edgar Allan Poe to the rhymes of The Notorious B.I.G., and is now a creative writing and composition professor with three books of poetry under his belt. He launched the Community Literature Initiative (CLI) to help local poets polish their manuscripts and connect with presses, and asked his students to read one book of poetry a week. Many couldn't afford to buy the books and found their local libraries didn't have robust poetry sections, so Sims bought 80 books, put them in a suitcase, and started dropping them off to students. One called the suitcase "the little Sims library of poetry," and Sims thought this was an "incredible concept."

With the support of his friends and family, in 2020 Sims opened the Sims Library of Poetry, where everyone is welcome. It has comfortable spaces for reading, writing, studying, workshops, open mics, and performances, and is home to 9,000 poetry books, many of them donated. "We are in an area that's very much Black, very much brown, very much working class," poet bridgette bianca told the Monitor. "And that somebody built a library here is just fantastic."