Fifteen people are in the running to be San Mateo County’s first poet laureate, a number that surprised even those organizing the program.
“I am over the moon,” said Marci Dragun, a legislative aide to Supervisor Warren Slocum who, along with Supervisor Carole Groom, suggested the poet position.
Dragun said a lot of other counties contacted about their poet programs struggled to find multiple quality possibilities but, from the time the nomination window opened in June until Wednesday evening’s deadline, names and letters of support have steadily streamed in. Some were nominations of others and some were self nominations but Dragun said all are strong.
Candidates were required to be age 18 or older, able to serve two years beginning in the fall, a county resident of at least three years who has been published or recognized for poetry and literary contributions and a demonstrated commitment to making poetry more accessible.
The poet laureate’s duties include representing San Mateo County through poetry-related activities, presenting works during at least four county-sponsored events yearly, writing a commemorative poem about the county and opening the Board of Supervisors meetings with a poem every quarter.
Next Tuesday, the advisory committee charged with choosing the poet laureate meets to begin working out the selection process and a decision should be made by October, Dragun said.
The committee includes California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera; Jackie Berger, director of the master of arts in English program at Notre Dame de Namur University; Kalamu Chaché, East Palo Alto poet laureate; Maryann Moise Derwin, chair of the San Mateo County Library JPA governing board and Portola Valley councilwoman; Anne-Marie Despain, director of library services for San Mateo County Library; Julie Fellers, president, Peninsula Arts Council; Mary Gutierrez, dean of language arts at Skyline College; Clark Kepler, local business advocate; Bardi Rosman Koodrin, literary director of the San Mateo County Fair; Donald Mulliken, San Mateo County arts commissioner; Christopher Wachlin, president of the California Writers Club, San Francisco-Peninsula Branch; and, Bonny Zanardi, arts columnist for the San Jose Mercury News.