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Guest Post: On the Road as Poet Laureate

By Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate

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.

It probably would be impossible to visit all 58 counties if I didn’t have such active partners from the California Arts Council, the California Center for the Book, and the California State Library. They have helped me connect with people and communities I could never have reached on my own. Working together, we are now starting to fill up the intimidatingly large map of California counties.

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View the latest map on the new Poet Laureate website: www.capoetlaureate.net.

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.

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Dana Gioia with former and current Lake County Poets Laureates Casey Carner, Russell Gonzaga, Julie Adams, and Elaine Watt. July 6, 2016.
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Dana Gioia with students from the Get Lit after school program at the LA Times Festival of Books. April 9, 2016.

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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

Dana Gioia with cat Photo copyright © Star Black.2015

On the Road with California’s Poet Laureate

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

Saturday, June 18, 4 pm

Angelos’ Hall in the State Park of Columbia

11255 Jackson St, Columbia, CA 95310

info@tuolumnecountyarts.org

Click here to learn more.

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

530-757- 5593

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

707-263- 8817

Colusa – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Thursday, July 7, 6:30 pm

Colusa County Library

738 Market Street, Colusa, CA 95932

530-458- 7671

Eureka – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Monday, July 18, 7pm

Immanuel Lutheran Church

3230 Harrison Avenue, Eureka, California 95503

707- 839-4255

Joined by James McCubbrey of Eureka High School, Poetry Out Loud Champion for Humboldt County

Crescent City – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Tuesday, July 19, 7 pm

Del Norte County Library

190 Price Mall, Crescent City, CA 95531

Yreka – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Wednesday, July 20, 6:30 pm

Yreka Branch, Siskiyou County Library

719 4th Street, Yreka, CA 96097

Redding – A Poetry Reading and Conversation

Thursday, July 21, noon

Redding Library

1100 Parkview Avenue, Redding, CA 96001