A summary by D.L. Lang, Vallejo Poet Laureate

On September 21st, 2019, 21 Bay Area Poets Laureate gathered at the Millbrae Library in Millbrae, California. We were welcomed by San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Casinetto and San Mateo County Arts Commissioner Robin Rodricks. We all schmoozed while eating breakfast together, passing around a gorgeous booklet consisting of the names of the attendees and quotes from their poetry, collecting autographs from one another.

We broke off into small groups of poets laureate consisting of both emeriti and current poets laureate, discussed our favorite projects, how we act to unite communities, the discrepancies between various communities abilities to compensate their poets laureate, the struggle of poets to be recognized as serious working artists, and the many hurdles and blessings of fame. 

We had another opportunity to schmooze over a catered lunch, followed by a moving film project about the North Bay Wildfires by Sonoma County Poet Laureate, filmmaker, and fire ecologist Maya Khosla.

A’aron Heard caught our hearts with a workshop about Community Healing Through Literary Arts, explaining the biology of trauma and how creative expression can heal people. 

We all had to write a poem about being the midwives of such expression, inspired by Taoism, specifically:

Tao Te Ching, 17

translation by Stephen Mitchell

When the Master governs, the people

are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved.

next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

If you don’t trust the people,

you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.

When his work is done,

the people say, “Amazing:

we did it, all by ourselves!”

Roar by D.L. Lang, Vallejo Poet Laureate

Get out of the way!

Don’t encourage how to say!

You can only point the way.

The healing will come to stay,

forging a path for a brand new day.

Each soul knows when they are ready to play.

A voice like a lion

will have much to say.

Public Reading

County Supervisor Warren Slocum gave opening remarks prior to a powerful public poetry reading followed by book sales. 

Since the gathering coincided with International Peace Day, I read “Affirmations of a Dream”.

The official video of the reading:

I spoke with several locals afterwards who had previously heard my work at the San Mateo County Fair, and passed out buttons, magnets, pens, and stickers.

Many great things will sprout from this gathering. Visit the official conference website to learn about all the poets in attendance.

Thank you to everyone who had a hand in putting this event together, including Lisa Rosenberg, Aileen Casinetto, and Caroline Goodwin.