Dr. Janet Hoult: Culver's Poet Laureate
December 25, 2014
By Lynne Bronstein
Culver City's City Council meetings aren't exactly the place you'd expect to hear a recital of poetry. But during the public comment time, when Dr, Janet Hoult is announced, those in attendance are in for a special treat.
She comes to the podium supported by a cane that might have been invented by and for the Marx Brothers (it has a horn that can be honked to alert passers-by), pulls out a sheet of paper, and reads a poem dealing with a civic observance or a comment on a civic problem.
After taking the Culver City Police Department's Citizen's Police Academy class, Dr. Hoult read the following lines:
"We found out about types of enforcement,
"Traffic, motorcycle, and red light,
"Then we went to the firing range
"And found that the test was out of sight...!"
Or, just before the annual Fiesta La Ballona:
"Fiesta La Ballona
"Which began in 1951
"Has always been a place
"Where Culver City can have fun......
"So thank you Culver City
"For a wonderful celebration
"I'd even go so far to say
"Our Fiesta's the best in the nation...!"
These recitals are increasingly looked forward to by attendees of the meetings as well as by the five City Council members-who in fact, are now looking into the possibility of declaring Dr. Hoult the "poet laureate of Culver City."
Dr. Hoult has published some of her city council poems on the news web site The Front Page Online. She has also published a book, Body Parts, consisting of humorous poems about aging. An example: that annoying tendency of sight-challenged people to not be able to find their glasses:
"You're saying to look in the mirror
"And my glasses will be there?
"Well, isn't that really something,
"There they are nestled in my hair!"
Amazingly, the writing of these zingers did not come overnight to the mind of Janet Hoult. She began writing poetry a few years ago, while taking a creative writing class at Santa Monica's Emeritus College. The impetus to write, in verse, was to find a way to heal from the death of her son, David.
"David was a marine biologist," Dr. Hoult told the Observer. "He was also a musician." After his untimely death in a motorcycle accident in 1999, Dr. Hoult struggled with his loss. She credits the Didi Hirsch Center with helping her.
But it was in the writing class that she took after her son's death that she found a release in poetry. Assigned to write about "a death in the family" she found that poetry was, for her, a better form of expression than prose.
Janet Hoult was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Chicago. As her father worked for the Department of the Interior, the family traveled a great deal and Janet went to the Lycee Jeanne D'Arc in Tehran, Iran, and later to the University of Beirut, Lebanon. She got a B.A. at the University of Washington and, in 1961, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to pursue a Diplome d'Etudes Superieures in Phonetiques at the Universite de Grenoble, France.
During her years of study in the Middle East, Janet's citizenship papers were lost in Iran. Unable for a time to get out of the country, she volunteered at a Palestinian refugee camp.
"I was 17," she said, "and that experience has stayed with me." Later, between her sophomore and junior years at the U. of Washington, she went back to Iran to work for an American government installation. Still later, her early experiences led to activism in the States, including marching with CORE (Congress for Racial Equality) in the 1960s.
Dr. Hoult's credentials are amazing. She has spent much of her life teaching, including 14 years with California State University at Los Angeles, as well as teaching in Germany, Korea, Japan, Thailand, and China, and working for the Los Angeles Unified School District. She retired from teaching in 2000 but retains the title of Professor Emerita at CSULA.
Dr. Hoult has been married twice, first to the father of her son, and for 23 years to Charles Hoult, a rocket scientist. "It's my second marriage; his fourth" she explained.
"My husband has been married
"Longer than our friends
"It's just that his first marriages
"All came to different ends
"His first one lasted for twelve years
"His second lasted three
"His third was for 15 years
"And then he married me."
Dr. Hoult and Charles Hoult attend City Council meetings together and usually sit in the front row, greeting their friends before the meetings.
Because of her increasing popularity as a poet-commentator at the meetings, City Council members have proposed the Poet Laureate title. Dr. Hoult has been collecting data about the position to give to city staff.
Although she would be happy to have the title, she says she wants to see the position of Poet Laureate continue with other poets after her.
She also is looking into forming two Culver City poetry groups-one for seniors at the Senior Center and one at the Culver City Library for poets of all ages.