#POETMOM: The Library of Progress

By Heidi Siegmund Cuda
September 20, 2015


“Don’t cry!” commands my daughter Mila on the other line. “But I’m going to Washington.”

Insert tears.

My daughter is one of two poets chosen by Get Lit to perform at the National Book Festival Poetry Slam at the Library of Congress, where she will recite two original poems, among them a poem for her best friend titled “Lakota.”


Truth be told, I knew her wisdom would garner her an invitation to Washington in some form or another. I just didn’t know it would happen when she was fifteen.

Get Lit nurtures poets like champion prizefighters, encouraging them to develop their natural abilities and to reach deep inside their souls to excavate truths and share them with those who want to hear them and those who need to hear them.

These are the days we need our poets, both living and dead. We need our poets more than selfie sticks, more than childish political candidates. More than divisive rhetoric, we need words and actions that heal our collective heart.

As a poet mom, I’m particularly sensitive to the needs of our world because I am a student of youth poetry. Our teen poets have been taking to stages all across Los Angeles and begging us to slow down on our fast-paced destruction…to turn the other way. I am trying to get their message out as best I can, but I need help. I try to get media interested in covering their events, which occur frequently, but because this is a positive movement sans violence or tragedy porn, news vans drift elsewhere.

Like the great philosopher Alain de Botton once said, “We need better celebrities.”
These poets are our better celebrities.



Please, take a moment to listen to Khamal Iwuanyanwu. He is going to Washington with Mila. Khamal is one of the most gifted and natural performers I’ve ever seen. Here is his poem, “Sepia,” from Get Lit’s 2015 poetry festival and competition, the Classic Slam.

While we’re on the topic of the Classic Slam, here’s Ian Kohn, a young poet and advocate for Asperger’s Syndrome awareness, who whose poem “Terrified of People,” speaks to our culture which doesn’t enable kids to be happy so much as force them to be happy.

Instead of listening to the fighters, I suggest, I urge, I beg: Listen to the poets.

Mila & Khamal


I am a news producer. Along with a cameraman I’ve worked with for two decades, I began tallying up the incidents when we have had guns pointed at us. Since then, we’ve both left corporate TV news and carved out independent careers, but the days on the streets are never far from our minds. We’ve both escaped from the slippery, dangerous business of corporate news, but two of our colleagues weren’t so fortunate. Last week the world witnessed as a reporter and camera operator were fatally shot on live television.

I don’t watch television or news at the moment because I simply can’t bear it.
But the writing is on the wall. These incidents so predictable and commonplace now.
Just listen to the poets. Here my daughter and her teammates recite an original poem, “Countdown to a School Shooting.”

Listen to the poets.

This is the world we are now raising our children in. How is that ok?
What are we doing about it?

We who wake and breathe every day know that most of this world is beautiful and people love each other, but we now live in a world of fulltime tragedy at the click of a button. What are we doing about it? I was a “Fox Blonde” once. I fled and took up birdwatching for the safety of my soul.

Despite launching my own investigative web series, which could maybe be considered “newsporn adjacent,” I will try to spend the rest of my career as far away as possible from perpetual sadness. Root out bad guys? Sure. Show continual violence while keeping up with Kardashians? No, thank you.


Thanks to the tragic events of last week, my screenwriting partner and I have a “hot property.” We wrote a satire about corporate local TV news called Dead Air, where the carnage of zombie anchors is captured live on air. It didn’t feel good when it came true. But art is all I have to offer to stop the news porn from bleeding. And anyone who recalls the movie Network knows it’s time for a refresher course on the forces that propel us to low heights.


Punk rock is my drug of choice, and I see as much of it live as possible. I spent 15 years writing a nightlife column in The Los Angeles Times, and we who live by moonlight see the world differently. We see the poets and the punks, the artists and the muses. We find them backstage and on street corners, and we fuel each other to keep on keeping on. In Music We Trust. I found Tiger Army’s Nick 13 on a Melrose Ave. street corner last week. Nick is one of the great punk poets of our time, and we talked about X and Jimmie Rodgers, of Hank Williams and Phil Alvin. For two hours, we chopped it up on music…and by the time I walked back to my car, I thanked the cosmic forces for the power of moonlight. Here’s some mid-day moonlight for you…



One of my producing partners and I just sold a show to Discovery Studios that focuses on an earth avenger who travels the world studying plastic smog in our oceans. My goal is to build a network of peace loving, tree hugging people who want to study and solve problems, not contribute to them. I’m here to enlist in the #LiteraryRiot. I am following the instructions of the poets. Their words are falling on live ears. We can and must do better. We can and must do good.

Go in, poets.


Heidi Siegmund Cuda

Heidi Siegmund Cuda just completed the novel, Fox Undercover: A Love Story Sorta: Four Lovers, A Husband and One Really Bad Breakup, with Over the Edge Books. She also writes the column, “The Plastizoic Ages,” for the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Plastic Free Times. She is a former Fox News anchor and columnist for The Los Angeles Times, and she is #POETMOM to Mila Cuda, a student at iLead High School in North Hollywood.


This edition of #POETMOM is dedicated to the UN’s International Day of Peace: September 21, 2015. For more information, check out http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/ or #peaceday.