Poet Laureate

2019 SUMMARY

Appointed by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in October 2018, I began my two-year term as Poet Laureate of San Mateo County on January 1, 2019 with a vision of what I hope to achieve to celebrate the literary arts and make poetry more accessible to people in their everyday lives. I am thrilled to carry on the wonderful poetic legacy of my predecessors and have worked hard to start my term off with impactful programming and community connections. I’ve visited schools, city halls, churches, and the county jail to share my work; launched my “Speak Poetry” campaign, and promoted my events on NBC Bay Area, KPFA Radio Berkeley, Your Artsy Girl Podcast, and PenTV, and publications such as The Six Fifty, Positively Filipino, The NonConformist Literary Magazine, Half Moon Bay Review, Everything South City, Redwood City Climate Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, New York-based Cagibi, and Manila-based Philippine Daily Inquirer. I have also been a featured speaker at the College of San Mateo and at Skyline College, and collaborated with other poets to help raise awareness on issues such as women’s rights, environmental protection, prevention of cruelty to animals, rehabilitation of prisoners through poetry, and mental health and suicide prevention. As the county’s first foreign-born and Asian American Poet Laureate, I also participated in the 10th Annual CSM Asian Pacific American Film Festival (which was a momentous event for a panethnic group that has, for so long, endured a lack of representation, especially in the film industry). In May, I was deeply honored to have been invited to read my poem in memory of those who died in service of our country at the 78th Annual Memorial Day Observance at the Golden Gate National Cemetery. And in September, with the support of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the San Mateo County Arts Commission, the San Mateo County Libraries, and Poets Laureate Emeriti Caroline Goodwin and Lisa Rosenberg, I organized a convening of Bay Area Poets Laureate for a full day conference which culminated with a public poetry reading. In December, I organized my second Poetry & Community Concert which brought together poets of all ages and musicians from the West Bay Community Band. In my first year, I visited 14 cities in the county, given over 50 readings around the Bay Area, and released two anthologies featuring San Mateo County poets on the themes of community and childhood. Moving forward, I am working on projects that will highlight more local poets, facilitate community-building through poetry, and ensure the sustainability and longevity of said projects.


2020 PROJECTS

SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2020: Peninsula Virtual Bookfest

Message from San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom & Local Librarians:

The Peninsula Virtual Bookfest brings together a diverse community of writers and book lovers, in a series of vital and inspiring readings and conversations during the months of September and October.

Curated by San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto, the virtual bookfest will feature 60 authors, in collaboration with the Burlingame Public Library, the Daly City Public Library, the San Mateo County Libraries and the South San Francisco Public Library, and various booksellers.

Please click here for the full schedule.


JUNE 2020: Pride Month

The San Mateo County Arts Commission with San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto present “PRIDE & POETRY,” with readings by Dena Rod, Joe G. Mendoza & Jan Steckel, and music performances by Erinn Louise Washburn and members of our local West Bay Community Band, and Karen Bryant Shipp of the Oakhurst Choir in Georgia. Co-hosted by JP Mangalindan.


APRIL & MAY 2020: Love in the Time of COVID-19 (The Making of a Community Poem)

*This poem was read at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut on Memorial Day (Decoration Day).

A few days after the six Bay Area counties issued the mandate to shelter-in-place, my NextDoor community mobilized to find ways to support each other. A few people started yard-based neighborhood pantries stocked with food and other personal care items, others offered to run errands for their elderly and disabled neighbors (within days, almost a hundred people had signed up to shop, pick up meds, cut grass, and do other chores for those who need help), and there were those who gave away N95 masks and homemade masks. Some people in the community also posted poems to log their days and cope with the anxiety and uncertainty brought on by self-isolation, unemployment or other pandemic concerns. Around that time, I was in the process of curating poems on “Sheltering” from poets from across the US and around the world. I suggested to my NextDoor neighbors that we create a community poem for our frontliners, and for every line that will be submitted, a dollar will be donated to the San Mateo County Health Foundation’s COVID-19 support for San Mateo County hospitals and clinics. As of April 10th, I received a total of 125 lines from people from all around the county, which I had put together into this poem, with much gratitude to everyone involved in the project.

Read “Love in the Time of COVID-19:A Community Poem for Healthcare Workers and Other Frontliners, from San Mateo County

Contributors: San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom, Commissioner Susan Kokores of the Commission on the Status of Women, Commissioner Craig Wiesner of the LGBTQ Commission, Terry Adams, Lisa Anderson, Ginnie Backes, Jay Thomas Beard, Chuck Brickley, Michelle Brcko, Jackie Burleigh, Judy Campbell, Patricia Delara, Debbie Diaz, Rev. Terri Echelbarger, Aaron & Gina Feil, Paul Fericano, Ivana Hansen, Diane Hendrix, Teresa Kelly, Heidi Leupp, Victoria Maier Magbilang, Veronica Montes, Carol Mukhopadhyay, Amy Pabalan, Ann Powers, Tony Press, Anita Ferrin Rodman, Diana Ross, Lyla Strauss, and Sherri Sunahara.

With special thanks to Tanya Beat and Birgit Eeckman for helping spread the word. Curated by San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto.

This poem raised money for the San Mateo County Health Foundation’s COVID-19 support for county hospitals and clinics, and was presented at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Meeting on April 21, 2020.


MAY 2020: Affordable Housing Month

In partnership with the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, I helped organize “Home Could Be Here,” the first countywide Youth Poetry, Art & Music Competition to celebrate Affordable Housing Month. By doing projects like this, we acknowledge that our young people are co-authors of our community narrative, and of the spaces which they inhabit.

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MAY 2020: Mental Health Month

In partnership with Menlo Park Library, I hosted a Mental Health Open Mic to help break the silence surrounding suicide and mental illness.


APRIL 2020: National Poetry Month / Shelter in Place

A Poem by First Graders

I’m very proud to have worked with first graders from Portola Valley on this poem for National Poetry Month 2020:

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APRIL 2020: National Poetry Month / Shelter in Place

Genoa International Poetry Festival’s Poetry in sDreaming

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I’m honored to represent San Mateo County in the Genoa International Poetry Festival’s offering this year (in lieu of its annual gathering). Parole Spalancate has curated Poetry in sDreaming “to reaffirm the strength of poetry as a tool for sharing, dialogue and creation… in this moment of suspended time and forced isolation in Italy…”

(The Genoa International Poetry Festival is Italy’s oldest poetry event. Yusef Komunyakaa, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Czeslaw Milosz, and Wole Soyinka were some of the festival’s participants.)

*I read my poem “Fireborn” (approx. at 1:40), recently anthologized in California Fire & Water edited by Molly Fisk, as it speaks of hope and resilience.


APRIL 2020: National Poetry Month / Shelter in Place

“Poets on Sheltering”

As 20% of the world’s population went under lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, I’ve curated poems on “sheltering” from 50 poets from across the US and around the world.

I am very grateful to William Allegrezza (Indiana), Ivy Alvarez (New Zealand), Ronda Piszk Broatch (Washington), Megan Duffy Brown (California), Cynthia Buiza (California), Michael Caylo-Baradi (California), Douglas Cole (Washington), Joe Cottonwood (California), Robert Cowan (New York), Melinda Luisa de Jesús (California), Simeon Dumdum, Jr. (Philippines), Melissa Eleftherion (California), Hollie Hardy (California), Lee Herrick (California), Georgette Howington (California), Luisa A. Igloria (Virginia), Luke Johnson (California), Persis Karim (California), Mary Kasimor (Washington), Phyllis Klein (California), Abigail Licad (California), Aurelia Lorca (California), Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum (Tennessee), Joseph G. Mendoza (Philippines), Rashaan Alexis Meneses (California), Abigail Milne (California), Claudia Monpere (California), Diane Lee Moomey (California), PC Muñoz (California), Tayve Neese (Florida), Cynthia J. Patton (California), Lisa Meltzer Penn (California), Claudio Pozzani (Italy), Octavio Quintanilla (Texas), Ron Riekki (California), Jacki Rigoni (California), Tony Robles (North Carolina), Lisa Rosenberg (California), Christopher X. Shade (New York), Murzban F. Shroff (India), Kim Shuck (California), Michael Simms (Pennsylvania), Norma Smith (California), Eileen R. Tabios (California), Gabriele Tinti (Italy), Joel Vega (Netherlands), Maw Shein Win (California), Rosemary Ybarra-Garcia (California), Jamie Zou (Connecticut), & Cybele Zufolo (California).

Despite the onslaught of our most recent pandemic, these poets carved out time to create, log their days, and thoughtfully consider which poems best give shape to what we shelter and why.

Read poems on Sheltering.


“SPEAK POETRY” Anthologies 

My campaign is an ongoing conversation where we’re given the opportunity to get to know people and the rhythm of their everyday lives. Human ecology is a significant feature of my projects, and aside from bringing different communities together through poetry events, I also edit a bi-annual anthology on specific themes.

“Speak Poetry” Issue 1 (April 2019) is about community.

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“Speak Poetry” Issue 2 (December 2019), is about “childhood.”

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