A cause for celebration: California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia’s 2016 book, 99 Poems: New & Selected, has been chosen as the winner of this year’s Poets’ Prize. The award, administered by Lake Forest College, is presented annually to the best book of verse by an American author published within the two years prior.
99 Poems: New & Selected features 12 new poems juxtaposed with work spanning Gioia’s career, most notably examining life’s more solemn experiences of death, time, mortality, grief, love, and family.
“I’m deeply pleased to have the book recognized by this fine award. It is a pleasure to be prized,” Gioia said in a statement.
Gioia also won a Poets’ Prize in 1992 for his book The Gods of Winter, making him the first recipient in the prize’s 30-year history to be honored on two separate occasions for different works.
He will be recognized at an award ceremony and reception on May 18 in New York.
From all of us here at the CAC, congratulations!
As California’s poet laureate, Gioia’s been on the road as “poetry’s public servant” and making a visit to every county in California. To see pictures from Gioia’s travels and learn more about past and upcoming events, visit http://capoetlaureate.net.
“… Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia!” Lindo finishes with enthusiasm.
The reaction of the room speaks volumes. As cheers erupt on the floor and spread to the gallery above, it’s clear Alexis was a fan favorite, winning the approval of her peers as well as the judges. In a venue like the historic Assembly chambers, where decisions are made each day by representatives of the electorate, the occasion feels fittingly democratic.
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, administered by the CAC, Poetry Out Loud offers teens the confidence to make themselves heard, with poetry as their medium. Contestants get the chance to better understand and connect with the work of the masters through their own unique interpretation and delivery.
Over the course of the two-day final competition, Alexis captured the hearts and minds of her observers, reciting three poems with style and precision: “If They Should Come for Us,” by Fatimah Asghar, “Chorus Sacerdotum,” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville, and “The Mortician in San Francisco,” by Randall Mann.
The Orange County senior from Mater Dei High Shcool explains her relationship with poetry as a tool to promote social change on a civic level and within the world of art itself. “The arts give me the courage to express my values with an activist’s voice in the midst of the fear and ignorance residing on both sides of the ‘fourth wall,'” she said.
Sacramento County senior Sage Innerarity of Pleasant Grove High earned the prize of runnerup. Nicholas Panyanouvong, a sophomore at James C. Enochs High in Stanislaus County took third place for the second year in a row.
Poetry Out Loud is a statewide combined effort—this year involving the participation of 46 counties and 261 schools, the encouragement of 783 teachers, and the dedication of 30,000 students. It takes a panel of knowledgeable judges, a cadre of CAC Council Members and staff, a guest appearance from California Poet Laureate and POL founder Dana Gioia, and the backing and encouragement of countless legislators—just to name a few.
But the county finalists are no doubt the stars, and not only for their onstage presence. Their enthusiasm for one another out of the spotlight is all the more extraordinary, as heard in that volcanic moment on the Assembly floor.
“That’s what I love so much about Poetry Out Loud,” explained Chair Nashormeh Lindo. “It is the young people’s camaraderie and genuine support of one another that makes it so much more inspiring. It makes me hopeful, seeing their authentic humanity and respect for one another.”
Alexis will go on to represent California in the national finals next month in Washington, D.C., on April 23-25. We’ll have all the details for you to tune in and watch coming soon.
Congratulations to this year’s winners, and to all the county champions!
(Featured photo: The 2018 Poetry Out Loud Champions in the Assembly chambers at the California State Capitol. From left to right: CAC Deputy Director Ayanna Kiburi, California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, Third Place Winner Nicholas Panyanouvong, Runnerup Sage Innerarity, California Poetry Out Loud State Champion Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia, CAC Chair Nashormeh Lindo, CAC Vice Chair Larry Baza. All photos by Tia Gemmell.)
Being California Poet Laureate is an exciting experience, but it is also a humbling one. Our state is so big, populous, and diverse that it is more than any poet can handle. Since jumping into the job nine months ago, I have done 40 public events across 20 counties, and I feel as if I have hardly begun.
My goal as Poet Laureate has been to serve the entire state. But how does anyone do that? I decided that one relatively objective measure for reaching the whole state would be to visit every county—all 58 of them. One retired politician gave me some practical advice, “Don’t do it,” he said. “Once you get started, you’ll realize it’s impossible.” Never tell a poet not to do something. It makes the idea irresistible.
These early events have taught me some important things about realizing the potential of my unusual public office. The best plan is not just to visit every county in California; it is to create a literary event in each place that has a local element. A poetry reading is good, but group event is even better since it serves as a catalyst for the local cultural scene. So everywhere I go now, I try to find local partners.
One obvious form of partnership has been to present the local county champion or champions for Poetry Out Loud as part of the program. These kids worked hard to develop their winning recitations. I love having them perform alongside me, though they often steal the show. (Featuring the students also recognizes the valuable work of the local county art councils.)
I’m also trying to involve the county poets laureates. Their participation lets my visit become a mini-poetry festival as in Lake County where I appeared with four past and present local laureates.
Of course, there are many other ways to involve local writers, musicians, and artists. My statewide tour is just getting started. There are 38 counties to go—before I turn around and start again. I hope to meet you along the way.
DANA GIOIA is California’s new state Poet Laureate. Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in December, 2015, Gioia serves as the state advocate for poetry and literature in libraries, classrooms and boardrooms across California. An award-winning poet, Gioia is the author of Can Poetry Matter?, which is credited for helping revive poetry’s role in American public life. He is also the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts where he championed arts education. As state laureate, Gioia will work to inspire a new generation of writers and celebrate California’s great literary legacy. www.capoetlaureate.net
This summer, California’s Poet Laureate Dana Gioia will visit communities across the northern part of our state for a series of poetry readings and conversations, and other special events.
Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in December 2015, Dana Gioia serves as the state advocate for poetry and literature in libraries, classrooms and boardrooms across California. An award-winning poet, Gioia is the author of Can Poetry Matter?, which is credited for helping revive poetry’s role in American public life. He is also the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts where he championed arts education. As state laureate, Gioia will work to inspire a new generation of writers and celebrate California’s great literary legacy.
Here’s a list of upcoming public events. Join us!
Columbia – An Afternoon with Dana Gioia hosted by the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance
Sacramento – Remarkable Artist Series presented by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission
Sunday, June 26, 6 pm
Crocker Art Museum, Setzer Auditorium
216 O Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission presents The Remarkable Artist Series: California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet. He will be joined by the CA winner of the 2016 National Poetry Out Loud competition, Chigozie Maduchukwu. This event is presented in partnership with the Sacramento Poetry Center. Click here to RSVP online.
Davis – A Poetry Reading and Conversation
Tuesday, June 28, 7 pm
Stevens-Davis branch of Yolo County Library
315 E. 14th Street, Davis, CA 95616
Introduction by Andy Jones
Lakeport – A Poetry Reading and Conversation
Wednesday, July 6, 5:30 pm
Lakeport branch of Lake County Library
1425 N. High Street, Lakeport, CA 95453
Colusa – A Poetry Reading and Conversation
Thursday, July 7, 6:30 pm
Colusa County Library
738 Market Street, Colusa, CA 95932
Eureka – A Poetry Reading and Conversation
Monday, July 18, 7pm
Immanuel Lutheran Church
3230 Harrison Avenue, Eureka, California 95503
Joined by James McCubbrey of Eureka High School, Poetry Out Loud Champion for Humboldt County