(Fast forward to 1 min. in to get to musical intro. Musical intro ends at 4:43, when the official program begins).
The Sonoma County Poet Laureate Selection Committee is proud to announce that Phyllis Meshulam has been named Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2020-2022 from a field of four gifted and well qualified finalists. Her term runs from April, 2020 through March, 2022.
Every Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence, who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work, and who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County. Our new Poet Laureate steps up at a time when many of us are turning to the arts to find hope and resilience. A long-time resident of Sonoma County, she has published four collections of poetry, most recently Land of My Father’s War , which won the Artists’ Embassy International Award. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including Ars Medica,; Bullets into Bells; Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace; and What Redwoods Know . Phyllis is also the editor of Poetry Crossing , CalPoet’s 50th anniversary lesson plan book, an inspirational resource for writers and teachers.
Phyllis is a shining light in our literary community, especially her work with young writers in the CalPoets program, the Poetry Out Loud Program, and many events her students participate in, including the Petaluma Poetry Walk and the Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading. She has reached diverse communities through her teaching and writing, from residents at Napa State Hospital, veterans, preschoolers, and English language learners. Her work is imbued with her passion for justice, sensitivity, and inclusiveness.
The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident who must manifest a high degree of excellence in their work, produce a critically acclaimed body of work, and demonstrate a commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings during their two-year term and receives a $1,000 stipend.
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts was instrumental in the formation of the Sonoma County Poet Laureate program and is still home to its selection committee.
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts, along with the Poet Laureate Selection Committee, invites the public to a virtual reception on July 12, 2020 at 4 p.m. The event will honor outgoing Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, and welcome new Laureate, Phyllis Meshulam and the recently selected Youth Poet Laureate, Zoya Ahmed.
The burden borne by people of color in this country is almost incomprehensible to those who haven’t experienced it. Sonoma County’s Poets Laureate and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and others who want to re-imagine society, to expose racist roots wherever they might be, to challenge systemic racism within the power structure and to hold accountable those given the authority to use lethal force. We understand the urgency of addressing these centuries-old problems. We pledge to participate in this process, holding inclusive and topical events, amplifying the voices that need to be heard to make change, regularly including relevant work from a diverse community of poets in our readings. We believe that poetry can help us march in others’ shoes.
Listen to an excerpt from “Accidental” in Incendiary Art, by Patricia Smith:
“My children/ are blasted daily out of their own/ names, paying with breath for the sin/ of pockets. And wallets. And bottles./ And phones. And toys.”
Or listen to an excerpt from “By the Way” in American Sunrise by Joy Harjo:
“That’s how blues emerged, by the way—/ Our spirits needed a way to dance through the heavy mess./ The music, a sack that carries the bones of those left alongside/ The trail of tears when we were forced/ To leave everything we knew by the way—”
We also pledge to support groups like Reclaim Our Vote, My Brother’s Keeper, Undocufund and NAACP by volunteering, donating and spreading the word.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Kim Hester Williams
Cynthia Helen Beecher
Maya Khosla (2018-2020)
Iris Jamahl Dunkle (2016-2017)
Katherine Hastings (2014-2015)
Bill Vartnaw (2012-2013)
Gwynn O’Gara (2010-2011)
Mike Tuggle (2008-2009)
Geri Digiorno (2006-2007)
Terry Ehret (2004-2006)
David Bromige (2002-2003)
Don Emblen (2000-2001)
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