Santa Clara County searches for its next Poet Laureate
An aerial view of downtown San Jose (courtesy of Andy Nguyen)

In an effort to help elevate poetry and celebrate the literary arts, Santa Clara County is looking for its next Poet Laureate, a poet appointed by the government to compose poems for special occasions.

Established in 2008 by the Board of Supervisors, local poets are chosen based on their past bodies of work.

“The Santa Clara County Poet Laureate represents the county in its celebration of the literary arts, creating interest and engagement with poetry enthusiasts and a deeper appreciation for poetry in our community,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who chairs the County Library District JPA Board. “We encourage poets throughout the county to apply for the 2020-21 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate post and look forward to continuing this tradition that has engaged poetry followers of diverse ages and backgrounds.”

The county has partnered with the Santa Clara County Library District and SVCREATES to find its next Poet Laureate.

Former Poet Laureates include Nils Peterson (2009-2011), Sally Ashton (2011-2013), David Perez (2014-2015) and Arlene Biala (2016-2017). The current Poet Laureate, Mighty Mike McGee, inspires the next generation of poets in weekly poetry open mic nights downtown, poetry slams and at the Poetry Center.

“My theme for the last 20 years has been anyone can try it, anyone can do this,” McGee said. “My goal has been to just get folks to explore their own work.”

Mighty Mike McGee has been Poet Laureate since 2018. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County.

McGee said it’s always a struggle getting new people to pick up the pencil or speak into the mic, especially in tech-driven Silicon Valley.

“Money and poetry are not homies,” he joked. “And so if you’re in the pursuit of financial stability, chances are you’re not a poet. That’s step number one to finances 101: learn how to invest and don’t become a poet.”

McGee is excited about passing on the prestigious title.

“I look forward to working with them, because I’m not going to stop doing any of the stuff I’m doing,” he said. “This was something that I built for myself, for my community.”

“If you’re a poet, just do it,” McGee added. “You should apply every two years, because you have nothing to lose. Just do it.”

Applications, eligibility and responsibilities can be found here. Required materials include a current resume, plans for proposed community projects and work samples. The application deadline is 5 p.m on Sept. 27.

Contact Katie Lauer at klauer77@gmail.com or follow @klauer77 on Twitter.

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