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Meet San Diego’s Inaugural Poet Laureate

Photo credit: Courtesy of City of San Diego

San Diego's Poet Laureate Ron Salisbury is pictured in this undated photo.

'Insomnia' by Ron Salisbury

It’s easier to slip downstairs at 3:15 for a cup

of warm milk and cinnamon when the moon is full

—no tripping dogs in a new sleeping place, no curb

of a book on the floor, just the moon watching me

thread though the forest and not wake Eunice

who’s sleep often trips at the thought of cheese, not

even mice. Then the bask of circle the lamp makes, me,

the one dog beside and the book with finger place-mark

slumped in the narcotic milk-haze as Eunice drifts down

in the morning for coffee and carefully pulls the chain

on the lamp, the moon having finished her shift

and gone home.

On Monday, San Diego named its first Poet Laureate, who will be an ambassador for poetry, spoken word and literary arts in the city.

Ron Salisbury, a local poet, will serve a two-year term, producing engaging original works inspired by and in response to San Diego.

"Since the seventh grade, all I've ever wanted to be is a poet," he said. "It is a great honor to be chosen as San Diego's first Poet Laureate. This appointment will empower me to represent the dynamic San Diego I love and promote. It will allow me to teach and encourage poetry to an even higher presence than I already do. I want to give back to the city that adopted me, share my poetry with its people and share San Diego with the world."

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Salisbury will be an ideal ambassador for the arts in the new program, in which he will lead public events and a poetry project to broaden its audience and reach.

RELATED: Joy Harjo Becomes The First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate

"San Diegans have a special story to tell and I can think of no one better than longtime resident Ron Salisbury to tell it," Faulconer said. "With the creation of this new city tradition, I encourage all San Diegans to explore the creativity and culture of our great city and I look forward to seeing our community's love for the literary arts continue to grow."

Salisbury has won multiple literary awards, including the Main Street Rag's Poetry Book Prize for his book "Miss Desert Inn" in 2015.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Antioch University in San Francisco in 1983, followed by two Master of Arts degrees, one in management from Antioch and the second in liberal studies from Mills College in Oakland. Thirty years later, at the age of 69, he decided to return to school to pursue his true passion, which resulted in a Masters of Fine Arts degree in poetry from San Diego State University.

Salisbury, who lives in the University City neighborhood, has taught poetry classes in San Diego and throughout California for more than 40 years. For the past eight years, he has led a weekly poetry workshop at Writer's Ink, a local nonprofit.

Salisbury was chosen through a competitive request for qualifications process for the role of Poet Laureate. The criteria used to evaluate artists included artistic excellence, education and training as a literary artist, literary recognition, engagement in past projects that involve poetry, and other experiences related to poetry.

"There's not many rewards in being a poet. They're hard to identify and they're slim. So when these opportunities happen, it's almost as though I'm having this reward with all of the other poets in San Diego because the city of San Diego is now recognizing poetry with a poet laureate," Salisbury told KPBS Midday Edition.

The Poet Laureate selection committee was composed of Adrian Arancibia, co-founder of poetry and spoken word collective Taco Shop Poets and an English and creative writing professor at Miramar Community College; poet, curator and columnist Gerda Govine; Veronica Murphy, artistic director and co-founder of Write Out Loud; and Gaspar Orozco, a poet and deputy consul general of Mexico in San Diego.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

San Diego this week named its first Poet Laureate, who will be an ambassador for poetry, spoken word and literary arts in the city. Ron Salisbury, a local poet, will serve a two-year term, producing engaging original works inspired by and in response to San Diego

Aired: February 13, 2020 | Transcript

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