My Nominations for the Next California Poet Laureate

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A couple weeks ago, Gerard Sarnat sent me a notice from the California Arts Council about the nomination process for the next California Poet Laureate. It may say something about the position that I have detected less “buzz” about this than the recent occasions during which San Francisco and Los Angeles have sought to fill their poetic posts. Some of the nonchalance may be due to the most recent appointment, Dana Gioia, who is earnest enough to be credible, but who strikes me as the poor man’s Robert Pinsky. Given that the state’s poet laureate before Gioia went on to become the nation’s poet laureate, Gioia was facing impossible odds in terms of succession. Herrera is one of the most charismatic teachers and performers I have been fortunate to encounter over the past half-century, and he continues to write superb poetry. The poet after Gioia will have a much easier time in that she or he won’t suffer from obvious comparisons with such a compelling figure.

In terms of the poets who would best fill this post, I would hope that Rae Armantrout, Marilyn Chin, Kamau Daáood, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Amy Gerstler all consider being candidates for the appointment. Other poets whom I would be pleased to see selected for the job are Alejandro Murguia or Ron Koertge. Finally, this is a moment that I truly miss the late Francisco X. Alarcon. He would have made an exceptionally fine poet laureate right now. There are, of course, a couple dozen poets whose work I admire very much (Brenda Hillman, Kevin Opstedal, Gail Wronsky, Sarah Maclay, Gary Young, Christopher Buckley, Elena Karina Byrne, Kit Robinson, Will Alexander, Amy Uyematsu, B.H. Fairchild, Charles Harper Webb, etc.) but I have serious doubts that Governor Brown would be able to interview them in a manner that the appointment deserves. Brown hasn’t managed to serve as governor of California for four terms without being a calculating politician, and I can’t imagine him treating this occasion any differently. Fortunately, California has a sufficient pool of worthy poets that the odds favor a meaningful outcome.

If you wish to nominate someone, including yourself, for consideration, here is the link: The submission deadline is July 25, 2018.

Finally, I would recommend that California honor our resident playwrights by making one of them the first Playwright Laureate of California.

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