ESSAYS / NONFICTION
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Writ Large Press
- Review by Shana Nys Dambrot at LA Weekly
Together we are alive in a city of destiny.
I am still alive in Los Angeles!
The poems and essays in Letters to My City combine two decades of field experience, research, personal observations, and stories told to the author, a third-generation Los Angeles native, by his grandfather and other family members, to interrogate all sides of Los Angeles, its streets, its people, its neighborhoods, as a means to examine the postmodern metropolis.
Letters to My City rescues Los Angeles from history–rescues those who are Los Angeles and were Los Angeles. Not only the heroes and founders, activists and neighborhoods (or those city promoters would have you remember), but those unnamed witness-participants who faced the heartbreak and triumphs that shaped Los Angeles, only now to be forgotten in a present-minded world. Sonksen resusitates them with his words, a poetic celebration of the city that raised him, raised his father and grandfather, and it pays respect and honor to those living and dead. Add this book to your quintessential Los Angeles reading list.
–Natashia Deón, author of Grace, a novel
Los Angeles has many false lovers, especially the condescending jet set of New York and British writers who for decades have regularly prowled the Hollywood Hills looking for a quick book or new cliché. Mike Sonksen, working-class son of the flatlands, is their nemesis. A genuine people’s poet and historian, as well as tour guide nonpareil, he focuses our attention on the grassroots experiences that keep the un-embalmed arts militantly alive in the city’s diverse neighborhoods. In innumerable essays and performances, frequently in public schools, he has opened a new generation’s eyes to LA’s extraordinary history of underground and underdog cultures. What Whitman was to Brooklyn, Poet Mike is to contemporary LA.
–Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz
Mike the Poet sings the history, people, dreams, and even shadows of LA city, one of the most seen and filmed cities of the world, yet little known or understood. His poems are instant pop-and-crackle chronicles, more news than the 11 PM news hour, yet they are also jack-hammer words crashing onto concrete walkways, the palm-drenched horizon through smog-laden sky, the truth that dares to include everyone. What everyone forgets, Mike the Poet remembers.
–Luis J. Rodriguez, author of Always Running
Mike Sonksen (AKA Mike the Poet) is a civic treasure. He’s one of those faces that float into view at almost every poetry event and almost every corner of town. He’s a many-generation native of Los Angeles and with that he’s taken a multilayered interest in the city. All of it is up for exploration and inquiry.
–Lynell George, author of After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame
Sonksen aka Mike the PoeT inhabits the poetry of place with an acuity and wisdom. There are, unhappily, too few writers who advertise themselves as users of Location as a personal metaphor perceptive enough to follow in Mike Sonksen’s infectious footsteps. His endemic spirit continues to thrive through the pages of this document.
–Michael C. Ford, author of Emergency Exits
Equally a scholar and performer, Mike Sonksen, also …known as, Mike the Poet, is a 3rd-generation L.A. native acclaimed for poetry performances, published articles and mentoring teen writers. Following his graduation from U.C.L.A. in 1997, he has published over 500 essays and poems. Mike has an Interdisciplinary Master of Arts in English and History and his prose and poetry have been included in programs with the Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Public Library’s “Made in LA,” series, Grand Park, the Music Center and the Friends of the Los Angeles River. Mike has taught at Cal State L.A., Southwest College and Woodbury University. In June of 2018 one of his KCET essays was awarded by the LA Press Club.
Post-publication correction: The following error appears on p18 of Letters to My City. The sentence “A few years before Kropp wrote Ramona, she wrote the nonfiction book, A Century of Dishonor, which was much less popular.” should read “A few years before Jackson wrote Ramona, she wrote the nonfiction book, A Century of Dishonor, which was much less popular.