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Archive for January, 2011


Friday, January 7th, 2011


The application for California Poet Laureate is now open. The submission deadline is February 1, 2011.

California’s poets are absolutely among the most prestigious in the nation. The California Poet Laureate is a Governor’s appointee. We now have a new Governor, and it is also time to begin the selection process for the next California Poet Laureate. The mission of the California Poet Laureate is to spread the art of poetry from classrooms to boardrooms across the state, to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists, and to educate all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced our great state through creative literary expression.

Kristin Margolis

Literary Arts Specialist
California Arts Council


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Current California Poet Laureate

Luis Sinko/L.A. Times

Carol Muske-Dukes

Slouching Toward a Brief Literary History of Southern California
Carol Muske-Dukes


Poet First, Novelist Second: Carol Muske-Duke reads a chapter from her novel, Saving St. Germ, and selected poetry from Red Trousseau.

Past California Poet Laureate

Mary Beth Barber

Al Young

Biography | FAQ


California Poet Laureate Al Young’s ‘Blues’ | Renée Montaigne in conversation with Al Young at NPR’s Morning Edition (April 2008)


About the Position

The position of Poet Laureate was established in 2001 with the passage of AB 113 authored by Assemblymember Fran Pavly. Through that bill, the California Arts Council is designated to recommend individuals to the Governor for the position of Poet Laureate. The Governor chooses the Poet Laureate, and Senate approves the appointment.

Over the course of a two-year term, the Poet Laureate provides six public readings in urban and rural locations across the state, educates civic and state leaders about the value of poetry and creative expression, and undertakes a significant cultural project. One of the goals of the project must be to bring the poetic arts to students who might otherwise have little opportunity to be exposed to poetry.

History of California Poets Laureate

The concept of a Poet Laureate originated in England in the 1600s. The laureate description refers to the ancient Greek tradition of placing a laurel wreath or crown as recognition for significant achievements, from military accomplishments to literary triumphs.

Early lawmakers in California recognized the importance of a statewide Poet Laureate at the beginning of the twentieth century. Ina Donna Coolbrith was appointed the first honorary California Poet Laureate by Governor Hiram Warren Johnson on June 30, 1915. Ms. Coolbrith was later recognized by the California State Senate as the “Loved Laurel Crowned Poet of California” by a resolution in 1919, and she retained the title until her death in 1928. More details on Ms. Coolbrith can be found from the California Association of Teachers of English, and the University of California has an extensive online archive of her work.

The state Senate honored another California poet, English professor Dr. Henry Meade Bland, with the Laureate title in 1929, and he served for two years until his death in 1931. In 1933 lawmakers recognized through resolution another California literary artist: John Steven McGroarty, a poet, playwright, historian, Los Angeles Times writer, presidential candidate, and member of Congress from southern California between 1935 and 1939. More information is available from the Journal of San Diego History article on McGroatry.

The next writer to be honored officially by the state was Gordon W. Norris, appointed by the Legislature in 1953. He served until his death on December 18, 1961. Norris was followed by Charles Garrigus, a member of the California legislature and recognized by his colleagues in 1966, who served until the year 2000. Both of these appointments were made from the state Legislature through resolutions. An informative article on the history of the honorary Poets Laureate of California can be found from Metro Active, a Silicon Valley weekly.

After Garrigus’ death, lawmakers opted to change the state’s approach to the role of California Poet Laureate and make it an official appointed position rather than an honorary title. On September 1, 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed AB 113 by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, establishing the position of “California Poet Laureate” as a permanent part of the California Government Code. Under this new law, the Poet Laureate would no longer hold the title for life, but would instead serve a two-year term (time determined from the date of confirmation by the Senate) and would be limited to two terms.

On June 11, 2002, Governor Gray Davis appointed Quincy T. Troupe as California’s first official Poet Laureate. Mr. Troupe briefly served without Senate confirmation. In 2005, Al Young was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and confirmed by the senate in March of 2006. He left office in October of 2008.

California’s poets are among the most prestigious in the nation. They have received numerous significant awards including Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and some have served as United States’ Poets Laureate, like Robert Haas, a San Francisco native, and Robert Pinsky who attended Stanford University. California’s poets also come from every ethnic, religious, and geographic region of the state, and have provided a great source of inspiration to their communities, students, and the people of California.


PARIS SKETCHES • Michael Young at Ishmael Reed’s Konch Magazine

Thursday, January 6th, 2011


Michael Young
Paris Sketches

© 2011 by Michael Young; excerpted with permission of Ishmael Reed’s Konch Magazine

It’s August in Paris, and the ancient rain is pouring down. I arrived yesterday to stay with Katia, my Parisian girlfriend who lives in the 20th District. On the flight over, a Frenchman reading Le Figaro wearily tells me: “I would much rather leev in San Francisco.” He pauses. “Maybe it’s a case of the greener grass always being the greenest on the other side. I just mees zee Old Paris.” The 20th district is a moveable feast of funkiness: a Nigerian guy on the street corner is playing a xylophone while crooning Billy Ocean’s “Get outta my dreeeams, get into my car!” with a sleepy dog plopped by his side collecting euros in a hat. He hollers “Obama!” in my direction with a mischievous gleam in his eye. Then he shouts: “Keep hope alive!” (I know it’s probably obvious that I’m a Halfrican in Paris, but how does this dude know I’m a Halfrican-American in Paris?) North African men in sleek suits are deeply absorbed in their chess games at outdoor cafés, and school kids are skipping in brightly colored hip-hop gear, looking like they just leaped off the set of an old Spike Lee Joint. A street artist wearing dark wraparound shades wildly beckons for us to sit for a portrait sketching. There’s a crackling, freewheelin’ electricity in the air …

>>> To read this piece in its entirety, go to the Konch Magazine original >>>


WORKING WORDS at Diesel Books, Oakland, January 16, 2011

Thursday, January 6th, 2011



3:00 pm, Sunday January 16th
DIESEL, A Bookstore
5433 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618-1502

M. L. Liebler Diane de Prima Geri Digiorno Sue Doro
Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Michael McClure
Al Young


from Coffee House Press

Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams

Edited and introduced by M.L. Liebler

Paperback: 563 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1566892481
ISBN-13: 978-1566892483

© Linda Koutsky: Cover photo, cover and book design

M.L. Liebler

M. L. Liebler is the poet laureate of America’s working class. The collection he has assembled rings out with truth, intensity and love. In a world full of despair, it is comforting to have writers so gifted and generous singing our song of rebellion and hope. Make no mistake about it: the voices of the working class are shut down and snuffed out—and for good reason. Should they truly be heard, all hell might break loose. This book is the kind of spark we need these days—a rich, intense and inspiring collection for and about those who get their hands dirty every single day so the wealthy elite never have to. At least for now.” — Michael Moore

“This book is not ‘fresh-air.’ It is a mighty wind. . . . While the nightly news continues to ‘do the numbers,’ as if we were all investors, here’s the larger part—the real grit and savor of American life. Spelled out in plain English.”— Peter Coyote


From the White Stripes’ “The Big Three Killed My Baby” to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”; from the folk anthems of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie to the poems of Walt Whitman and Amiri Baraka; from the stories of Willa Cather and Bret Lott to the rabble-rousing work of Michael Moore—this transcendent volume touches upon all aspects of working-class life.

A collection about living while barely making one, about layoffs and picket lines, about farmers, butchers, miners, waitresses, assembly-line workers, and the “Groundskeeper Busted Reading in the Custodial Water Closet,” this is literature by the people and for the people.

Amiri Baraka
Bonnie Jo Campbell
Willa Cather
Andrei Codrescu
Dorothy Day
Emily Dickinson
Diane di Prima
Sue Doro
Bob Dylan
Woody Guthrie
Allison Adelle
Hedge Coke
Lolita Hernández
Philip Levine
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Bret Lott
Thomas Lux
Thomas Lynch
Michael McClure
Michael Moore
Mark Nowak
Edward Sanders
John Sayles
Quincy Troupe
Mick Vranich
Diane Wakoski
Jack White
Walt Whitman
Al Young

. . . and many more

— a taste of the very last piece in this juicy new anthology

Booker T. & the MG’s, 1962

Al Young

For a splendid surprise, click gently on the text below

© 1982 and 2010 by Al Young