The Mall of America didn’t realize this at first when they considered Brian Sonia-Wallace for the sprawling complex’s 25th anniversary writer-in-residence contest. But the Los Angeles-based poet is most uniquely qualified for this sort of work.
Sonia-Wallace (pictured) is a 2016-17 Amtrak writer-in-residence and has also done residencies with the City of Los Angeles, the U.S. National Parks system, Dollar Shave Club and L.A.’s ArtsWork Theater. Refrains, trains and automobiles, if you will.
Wallace will serve as MOA writer-in-residence June 14-18, which overlaps with his June 17 birthday. He plans to write 125 poems, another twist that was not originally envisioned by MOA but gladly accommodated once they chose him as the winner. From today’s announcement:
“I want to bring poetry back into people’s everyday lives,” Sonia-Wallace says. “We think of poems as this elite art form, but their roots go back to the dawn of self-expression and communication. The typewriter is my hook–it gets people engaged. From there, conversations can flow that awaken the inner storyteller in everyone. I’m excited to bring my model of poetry as a service, as a gift, to help celebrate Mall of America’s birthday.”
Sonia-Wallace’s Twitter handle, @rentpoet, and personal-website URL, are a nod to his performance art persona. He committed himself to working as a poet-for-hire in 2014 and published a book about the experience two years later titled I Sold These Poems, Now I Want Them Back.