California State Poets Laureate

California State Poets Laureate

Learn more about the Poets Laureate who have had the honor of representing the entire state of California. The duties of a state poet laureate vary from state to state, and are determined by the appointing body or existing legislation. The California State Poet Laureate is a governor’s appointee whose mission is to advocate for the art of poetry in classrooms and boardrooms across the state, to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists, and to educate all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced the state through creative literary expression.

Over the course of a two-year (or extended) term, the California State Poet Laureate provides public readings in urban and rural locations across California, educates civic and state leaders about the value of poetry and creative expression, and undertakes a significant cultural project, with one of its goals being to bring poetry to students who might otherwise have little opportunity to be exposed. We are honored to showcase the four most recent California State Poets Laureate here. 

Click through to learn more about each of them, and to hear the poetry of those who were able to attend the 2018 Gathering of Poets Laureate.

Poet Laureate of California
2015 – 2019
21st United States Poet Laureate
Poet Laureate of California
2008 – 2011
Poet Laureate of California
2008 – 2011
Poet Laureate of California
2015 – 2019

During his tenure as California’s most recent poet laureate, Dana Gioia, who served from 2015 to 2019, conceived of and helmed the Gathering of Poets Laureate of 2018 in partnership with the California Arts Council. During his tenure he became the first state laureate to visit all 58 counties of California. His statewide tour became the subject of a BBC Radio documentary. His archive has recently been acquired by The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, CA.

In his earlier role as the 2003 to 2009 Chairman of the National Endowment, Dana helped create and launch one of the largest programs in the agency’s history, Poetry Out Loud, a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Begun in 2005, the program has included participation by more than 4.1 million students and 68, 000 teachers from 17,000 schools across the U.S.

The youth poets laureate program in California began in 2014, when Urban Word, an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization, partnered with six of the top youth literary arts organizations in Los Angeles to launch the first ever LA Youth Poets Laureate Program, and announced the inaugural LA youth poet laureate. Since then, Urban Word has launched youth poet laureate programs in 41 more cities across the country. In 2016, Michelle Obama celebrated the program at the White House and honored the inaugural group of finalists for the country’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. As a state dedicated to the arts, California boasts more local youth poets laureate than almost any other state. To be recognized as a national, city or region’s youth poet laureate, young people undergo a comprehensive and rigorous application process that considers not only the artistic merit and subject matter of their writing, but also their commitment to servicing their communities in a number of extracurricular ways.


Interview with California Arts Council Chair (2018-2021) Nashormeh N.R. Lindo

Nashormeh Lindo, an Oakland-based artist and educator, was appointed to the California Arts Council by Governor Jerry Brown in September of 2014 and held the position of Chair from 2018 — 2020. We were privileged to interview her as CAC Chair at the 2018 Gathering of Poets Laureate, where she represented the California Arts Council in their active support of the event and of poetry and the arts in general. She is an artist, arts educator, consultant, and curator whose work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. A former adjunct instructor of African American Art History at City College of San Francisco, she serves as an in-dependent museum consultant for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Oakland Museum of California, lecturing and writing on the impact of African-American history and heritage to visual culture.

Mindfulness Pause with Sabrina Coryell

ETSF is committed to opening a portal to inspiration, connection, mindfulness, and transformation in all we do. We believe that meditative teachings and moments can prepare us for the truths contained within both poetry and everyday life, and so created a pause after a busy morning of workshops and before the poet’s readings in this mindfulness ritual offered by Sabrina Coryell, poet, yoga and meditation teacher, and Creative Director of ETSF. 

Engaging the Senses Foundation (ETSF) helped support the 2018 Gathering of Poets Laureate through our ongoing partnership with the California Arts Council (CAC). Partners like CAC, which created the event in collaboration with former California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, are vital to our ongoing mission to serve as a connector between arts agencies, academic initiatives, individual creatives, and organizations whose mission is to serve the community and world. Together we grow stronger, as we rise collectively and strive to make a difference. Learn More About Our Partners.