Tom Laichas

An L.A.-based poet, my collections include Three Hundred Streets of Venice California (FutureCycle Press, 2023), Sixty-Three Photographs from the End of a War (3.1 Press, 2021), and Empire of Eden (The High Window Press, 2019). A recipient of the Nancy Hargrove Poetry Prize (Jabberwock Review), my recent work has also appeared in The Rupture, Disquieting Muses Quarterly, Stand, and elsewhere.

Earlier in my life, I trained as a historian, earning a Ph.D. from UCLA. I taught for over thirty years at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, and have also taught at Long Beach State University and elsewhere. Currently, I teach a high school summer class on L.A. politics, arts, and history through Libros Schmibros, a lending library and cultural center in Boyle Heights. I am Senior Editor at World History Connected, a journal published through George Mason University and available at no cost to university and high school world history teachers around the world.

Why Left Write & Centaur?

Left because I come from a long line of progressives and, though I’m not fully at home in that tribe, it’s there my loyalties ultimately lie.

Write because that’s what I spend most of my time doing—and because it’s a play on Right, as in conservative. I have no use at all for nationalist populism that goes gaga for Hungarian President Viktor Orbán’s oxymoronic “illiberal democracy.” But I’ve read a fair amount of classical conservative thought over the years, starting with Burke and Madison. That reading has had its impact. If I tend Left when it comes to policy, my political temperament tends conservative. The United States may be falling apart, but my own skull contains at least two voices which, generally speaking, engage in respectful dialogue with one another.

Centaur because the centaur Chiron tutored young Achilles, who went on to slay the Trojan hero Hector, tie the body behind a chariot, and drag it around the walls of Troy until the corpse fell to pieces, an atrocity that left the gods themselves aghast. I take this as a cautionary tale for those of us who like to think of ourselves as teachers. Skill and knowledge matter;  self-control, empathy, and love matter more.