“To be a Poet Laureate is to perceive and bridge the gap that exists in a community. It is about creating empathy and recognizing our shared humanity… to be a poet is to help build, gather, restore. It’s about hope, that great unifier, which transforms lives, which fortifies communities, which changes the world.”
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, nursing facilities, the county jail, and libraries 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.
“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 being a significant feature of my projects, I edited two anthologies in 2019 on themes of “community” and “childhood”.