Calling Kern County’s First Poet Laureate
The Arts Council of Kern is heading the charge in the county-wide search for Kern County’s first poet laureate. We, community members and poets and writers, have the chance to help choose this history-making, pride-producing appointee.
As WOKians, we have poet laureate-hood in our genes. California Writers Club’s own Ina Coolbrith was California’s first poet laureate from 1915-1928 and the first for any American state.
What’s a poet laureate?
A poet connected to an area or group who is chosen as a representative that keeps the fire of poetry alive as a literary art. The poet laureate teaches and encourages, writes and shares his own work, and promotes the appreciation of poetry throughout the region.
The Kern County poet laureate will be a recognized poet/spoken word artist with a proven history of substantial publication of individual poems or books and will demonstrate an appreciation for Kern County.
How does having a poet laureate going to benefit Kern County?
Local poet and WOK member Portia Choi believes having a laureate will “raise the visibility of poetry” in our community.
The presence of Kern County’s community of poets may be a well-kept secret from many residents, but, “We have quite an active poetry community here,” Choi said.
Since 2010, WOK member Dr. Nancy Edwards and Choi have been instrumental in organizing multiple events for National Poetry Month, which is celebrated in April. Choi said, “Many of us, including poets Nancy Edwards, LisaAnn LoBasso, and myself, have presented workshops during National Poetry Month.”
Regarding the importance of a Kern County poet laureate, Nancy Edwards said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to encourage writers to find or share their poetic voices and feelings with the community.”
How can YOU have a voice in the choice?
Candidates will be nominated by the public. Download the nomination form and fill it out. It’ll take a bit of time and a little research on your candidate. The deadline for submitting nominations is January 31, 2016.
The honored poet laureate will be selected by a committee comprised of Kern County poets, Writers of Kern and Arts Council of Kern board members, and academia. I am proud to represent WOK on this committee.
Choosing a Kern County poet laureate to showcase poetry and its merits will have far-reaching effects. California’s newly appointed poet laureate Dana Gioia said, in a recent interview, “My life changed for the better by falling in love with poetry. It made me a better student, made me a more alert human being.”
Opening the world of poetry to a broad Kern County audience will have a positive effect right here at home.
Fill in and submit your nomination form today.
Annis Cassells serves Writers of Kern as Hospitality/Sunshine chair. She is the Writers of Kern 2013 recipient of the California Writers Club’s Jack London Award for service. After her 34-year career teaching students of all ages, kindergarten through college, Annis finished a Masters in Counseling and became a life coach and speaker. Annis’s work has been published in Bakersfield Life magazine, Bakersfield Magazine, and Bakersfield’s Wellness Quarterly as well as in professional journals and hobbyist publications. She is a contributing author in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for the Young at Heart. Annis writes and publishes The DayMaker, an inspirational blog.