Monday, 20 May 2024

Poet Laureates past and present converge in capitol

LAKE COUNTY – On April 2 and 3, a first general gathering of California Poets Laureate was convened at the State Capitol.

 

The event was sponsored by the California Arts Council, California State Library, California Poets in the Schools, Poets and Writers, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and the Sacramento Poetry Center.

 

Both Sandra Wade (PL 2006-8) and her predecessor Carolyn Wing Greenlee were able to represent Lake County at this exciting event for sharing of experience, ideas and mutual encouragement.


At the evening reception in the Fragrance Garden (next to the New California State Library), current PL of California Al Young performed some of his work accompanied by Dan Robbins on jazz bass. Al is an accomplished jazz singer as well as an awe-inspiring poet.

 

Due to the chill air and encroaching darkness, each poet present read only one poem that evening, after a tasty barbecue. But on the next afternoon, by the Capitol Fountain in warm sunshine, each had five minutes to give a representative sample of hir work.

 

On Thursday morning Al Young gave an inspiring keynote address "Line Breaks and Tax Breaks: Poetry and Democracy." The PoetryOutLoud program was introduced by Chelsea Hunt of SMAC. Then three consecutive panels provided time for poets to discuss successful projects, challenges and opportunities they have had as laureates of their respective communities.

 

The first panel, moderated by Connie Post (first PL of Livermore, now in her second term), discussed how to get other organizations (schools, libraries, business) involved in poetry programs, and reported on some successful collaborations. Jack Hirschman, fourth PL for SF, Geri Digiorno of Petaluma, Garland Thompson of Pacific Grove, Velma Ginzberg of Healdsburg and Perie Longo of Santa Barbara were panelists.

 

Next, Sam Pierstorff of Modesto (first state city to have a PL) led the topic of funding, visibility and the most pressing needs of poetry and the poetry community. Panelists were Dorothy Lee Hansen of Napa, Joel Fallon of Benecia, Diane Lando of Brentwood, Martha Meltzer of Pleasanton and Carolyn Greenlee, PL of Lake County 2004-06.

 

Lake County was represented again, when Sandra Wade took part in the third panel with the topic, “What can poets laureate do to help each other? What tasks should we, as a group, focus on?” Julia Connor, fourth PL for the City and county of Sacramento (2005-09), officiated. Other panelists were Mary Rudge of Alameda, Rod Clark of Pacifica, Meredith Laskow or Placentia and David Smith-Ferri of Ukiah.

 

Some catchy phrases:

Random Acts of Poetry (in the library) Martha Meltzer

a library room to “commit poetry” Joel Fallon

“think postcard (DaDa-style)” Julia Connor

'Poets on deck' (of cards) Julia Connor.


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