Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Melinda Palacio and California State Poet Laureate Lee Herrick. | Photo: Melinda Palacio

Last week’s Laureate Series at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Paseo Nuevo was the first event I’ve hosted in a while. That it was on a First Thursday meant there was a built-in audience. People know that museums offer free admission, sometimes refreshments, and that they may wander in and out.

I was happy that most of the audience who sat in the chairs eagerly awaited the poetry and stayed for the hour-long program. The current exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art features Pointing Star by Sarah Rosalena, on display through July 30.

MCASB will continue to host the Laureate Series, and the next event will be in September. Exciting news, given that there hasn’t been poetry there for several years. The museum was also on the brink of extinction, but Freddy Janka came to its rescue. Roger Durling writes about the museum’s revival.

What I’ve learned about event planning is that the location should be secured first, something I didn’t have pinned down until a few weeks ago. I have much to learn about event planning. I was lucky MCASB didn’t have a First Thursday event for June and was able to host us.

In my mind, the programming is more important than the location. I was willing to huddle in front of an empty storefront in the middle of State Street. I’m glad I didn’t tell this to the featured guest, California State Poet Laureate Lee Herrick. However, Lee has such a calm and charming demeanor, I’m sure he would have gone with the flow. He was the perfect choice to inaugurate this series because of his familial ties to Santa Barbara. His great grandmother built the first house in Rincon, and his family in Ojai grows tangerines. Try the Pixies next time you’re at the farmer’s market.

Lee has a wonderful way of listening to the world. He says, “we are walking, breathing poems.” Despite his early childhood trauma of having been given up for adoption in Daejeon, South Korea, where he was born, there is no doubt he belongs to California, where he grew up with his adoptive family in Modesto. He served as the Poet Laureate of the City of Fresno from 2015-2017. He also wrote the definitive California poem, “My California.”

In hindsight, I’m glad we were able to host Lee at the Museum of Contemporary Art and not on the street, although I do plan on having some poetry programs on State Street in the near future.

Lee also appreciated reading with our Youth Poet Laureate Madeline Miller and special guest Solange Aguilar, a first-place winner in the Santa Barbara Poetry Slam. Solange was one of the poets I met at the student luncheon for Joy Harjo. Both Solange and Madeline are powerful voices to look out for. The future of poetry is safe.

Upcoming Poetry Events:

Thursday, June 8 

From 1-5 p.m. I will join MCASB’s youth summit and conversations on identity with artists Sarah Rosalena and Porfirio Gutierrez.

Sunday, June 11

The Poetry Zone’s Open Mic at the Karpeles Manuscript Library at 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 11

Live Poetry Series at the Goleta Valley Library at 2 p.m., featuring former Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Enid Osborn, hosted by David Starkey, also an emeritus S.B. Poet Laureate.

June 18-23

The Santa Barbara Writers Conference

June 21

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 10:30-11:30 a.m. in the courtyard. Garden Songs: Poetry and Music with Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Melinda Palacio,. I will be reading poems and sharing some original songs on guitar and ukulele.

Poetry Connection Feature:

There are some poems that stay with you and this is one that stood out for me. Fran Davis entered her poem in the Independent’s poetry competition, inspired by Ada Limón. There were so many wonderful entries that didn’t win a prize. I’m glad Fran emailed this poem about resiliency and not giving up to Keep sending your poems.  


By Fran Davis

          The essential advantage for a poet is not to have a beautiful world with which to deal…it is to be able to see the boredom, and the horror, and the glory. — TS Eliot

Only the day arriving like a tide

        its thickness and thinness 

steadiness and withdrawal the forever 

of my life

Passing as the plant does

       and the mourning dove 

from the Tipuana tree and the still moth 

in the cupboard

In Hubble’s glass a black hole is towing a bridge

       of young blue stars halfway across 

the universe

we look so far for glory

The blue veins in my old hand how the blood

       fills and flows the nimbleness

of each day

no intention in the hands to finish

Fran Davis has been a columnist for Coastal View News for over 25 years. Her essays, poems and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a winner of the Lamar York prize for nonfiction and a Pushcart Prize nominee.


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