Gathering of California’s Poets Laureate

We celebrate the rich cornucopia of voices from some of California’s brightest lights…

On October 6th, 2018, Engaging the Senses Foundation (ETSF), in partnership with the California Arts Council and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs/McGroarty Arts Center, sponsored a coming-together event of current and former California local poets laureate to celebrate poetry’s power to nourish our deepest humanity.

The gathering was the brainchild of then California State Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, an award-winning poet, author of the seminal critique Can Poetry Matter?, and a recipient of the 2014 Aiken-Taylor Award for lifetime achievement in American poetry. He was the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from 2003-2008, where he created enduring art programs such as Poetry Out Loud. Dana’s commitment to serving the underserved has informed all of the programs he has created on the federal and state level, which are consistently inclusive, with a broad outreach. As California Poet Laureate he visited every single district, the first poet laureate ever to do so. Recently, Mr. Gioia has donated all of his works to Huntington Library in Pasadena.

The day-long occasion took place in the former residence of John McGroarty, California’s third poet laureate. In several breakout sessions, the poets shared best practices and lessons from their experiences as representatives of literacy appointed by their cities, counties, regions, and the state.

The day was capped off with individual readings, in which each of the poets took the stage in turn to read their original poetry to the audience. Along with the regional poets laureate, Dana Gioia, and Carol Muske-Dukes, also a former California Poet Laureate, took part in the reading, which was open to and well-attended by the public.

We are honored to share the filmed readings, to celebrate and promote the vibrancy of poetry during a time of unprecedented turmoil and struggle in the public realm. According to a comprehensive report by the NEA, poetry readership in the U.S. has risen by 76 percent in the past few years, with a young and diverse new audience, and increased participation and readership among Hispanic, African-American, and Asian readers. We are delighted for people young and old to discover the enduring value of turning to the arts to share their lived experience of 21st century America.

View the 10 minute video summary capturing The Gathering, October 6, 2018
View Program PDF →
View Event Photos →