Alameda seeks new poet laureate

Alameda seeks new poet laureate

Kristen Hanlon
Mary Rudge

Alameda's first poet laureate, Mary Rudge, passed away this year. The city is seeking a new poet laureate. Photo by Kristen Hanlon.

If, as Percy Bysshe Shelley once wrote, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” then it surely can’t hurt to have one present in an official capacity at a meeting of the Alameda City Council. This, and other duties, are among the responsibilities of the Alameda Poet Laureate, a volunteer position created a dozen years ago by the city and held by poet and activist Mary Rudge until her death in January of this year.

“My mom would be elated to know to know the program is continuing,” said Diana Rudge, Mary Rudge’s daughter. “She was worried that the position of poet laureate would be discontinued if she were to step down, so she kept at it until she died.”

Anyone interested in applying for the honorary position must be a resident of Alameda for at least two years with an established history of activity in the Alameda literary community. The city is seeking someone who has a commitment to making poetry accessible in the community and a willingness to promote poetry in Alameda.

The new term for the position is two years, at the end of which the selection committee may extend an invitation to the sitting poet laureate to serve a second consecutive term, based on his or her performance. The committee will draft a short list of candidates for Mayor Marie Gilmore, who will make the appointment.

Library chief Jane Chisaki said the new poet laureate would support community poetry events and could host events of their own.

“This (the two- to four-year term) is great, because we will continually be having new, fresh voices to represent our city,” said Cathy Dana, president of Alameda Island Poets.

In her capacity as a facilitator at Alameda Community Learning Center, Dana started Mighty Pens, a student poetry group that meets weekly to create an anthology of student poetry. “Mary Rudge encouraged me to do this,” said Dana. “She was a big supporter of getting poetry into the schools, and having student poet laureates.”

Of the attributes necessary for a poet laureate, Dana said, “I think there are key qualities. The first is obvious - the person needs to be a good poet. It has to be someone who lives and loves poetry.”

Noting that Mary Rudge leaves behind “big shoes to fill - she did so much for poetry in Alameda,” she added that the successful candidate should be someone willing to encourage the reading and writing of poetry “in many different venues - in the schools, in the community centers, wherever people gather.”

Natica Angilly, president of Artists Embassy International, which produces the annual Dancing Poetry Festival and other events said she agrees with Dana. Angilly is serving on the committee that will review the applications for poet laureate.

“Thanks to Mary, and the people she inspired, Alameda is proving to be a center for poetic activity in the Bay Area,” she said. The new poet laureate will be able to capitalize on the fact that “there are now poetry workshops all over Alameda, and Alamedans have a genuine interest and enthusiasm for poetry.”

In Angilly’s view, the ideal candidate is one who “loves poetry, and lives the idea that poetry is community.”

Anyone interested in applying should visit to download the application available at http://alamedaca.gov/library/alameda-poet-laureate. Applications are due July 10.