You make me cry. You do all this for love.
You do it all because you dare to care,
you dare to dream. Someone has to act.
You’re sick of hearing about how somewhere
over the rainbow :
-Al Young, from “You Do All This for Love”
On September 29, the Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival, now in its ninth year, will be honored with the presence of California Poet Laureate Al Young. The poet will present work from his new book to be released October 1, Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry (Sourcebooks), and will also be presented with the Glenna Luschei Distinguished Poet Fellowship. When asked why she chose Young as the recipient of her award this year, Luschei said, “He is just plain fun, and in spite of being state poet laureate, he is approachable and unpretentious.”
Young has received two American Book Awards, the Wallace Stegner Award, both Guggenheim and Fulbright National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the PEN-Library of Congress Award for Short Fiction, and the PEN-USA award for Non-Fiction, among many other accolades. In addition to being a poet, novelist, memoirist, and teacher, Young is also a singer, guitarist, and onetime radio announcer for jazz shows in Detroit and Berkeley. You can’t help being mesmerized by his warm, sonorous voice as he speaks not about his achievements but about how much he hopes, as poet laureate, to “restore poetry back to a grand place,” as in the days of the Romantics when poetry was acknowledged as the “universal language.”
Young, who is often called a “jazz poet,” considers himself a bridge between poetry and the general public. On a recent tour titled “Top to Bottom,” he traveled in 10 days to 18 cities and 38 schools and libraries where poetry isn’t often heard. His purpose, he said, was to visit rural communities-including the Central Valley and mountainous regions of the state-“to inspire and cheer the poetic impulse, which is human.” He was surprised, he said, to find that “the kids were wild for poetry.”
Here in Santa Barbara, poetry enthusiasts of all ages are welcome to attend the annual Book & Author Festival’s poetry marathon from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September 29, where Young will read at 11 a.m. The poetry marathon is being organized by David Starkey, professor of writing at Santa Barbara City College and director of their new creative writing certificate program. Starkey’s vision-not unlike Young’s-is to reach out to the whole community, “to emphasize the connections between readers and writers of contemporary literature,” and to act as “a bridge between the two.” In addition to Santa Barbara poets, Starkey has included those from UCSB, Ventura, and Los Angeles to provide greater diversity.
Santa Barbara poets to read at 10 a.m. include Chella Courington, Beth Taylor-Schott, Lois Klein, Carol DeCanio, Diana Raab, and Mary Brown. At 12:45 p.m., Ventura poets Phil Taggart, Marsha de la O, Mary Rose Betten, and Vail Dinkins read. At 1:30 p.m., UCSB poets Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Barry Spacks, and John Ridland are featured, and at 3:15 p.m. the Los Angeles poets include Reed Wilson, David Case, Magdalena Edwards, Carolie Parker, and Jeanette Clough. Added to the mix are two “Open Mike” times hosted by Sojourner K. Rolle, at noon and 4:15 p.m.
A final note: Mark your calendars for two upcoming events. On Wednesday, October 3, celebrated poet Sandra Alcosser will read her poems at UCSB from 4-5 p.m. in the Old Little Theatre at the College of Creative Studies. On Saturday, October 6, the Santa Barbara Poetry Series continues at the Contemporary Arts Forum, 7-9 p.m. My own poetry will be featured, and I will be joined by Enid Osborne and Bruce Schmidt. I can’t close without giving another grateful bow to Walt Hopmans, who helped make Santa Barbara the “Poetry Town” it is. Yes, “for the love of it.”