Farewell note

Dear community partners and friends, 

As my laureateship ends today, I wish to thank all of you for your incredible support over the last three and a half years. With your help, I was able to accomplish what I initially set out to do which was to make poetry more accessible and amplify its role in the context of larger intersectional movements.

Some of my most important projects include: 

—the San Mateo County Youth Ecopoetry Project, a series of workshops and short films that highlight young people’s climate advocacy through the lens of poetry, film and equity, with support from the Academy of American Poets and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation;

—Speak Poetry in San Mateo County Project which included readings and a web archive featuring the individual and anthologized work of over 300 poets from the county and the greater Bay Area on the theme of belonging, with support from the County of San Mateo;

—Makerspace Poetry Lab (Poetry Makers) which integrates poetry into the makerspace to encourage divergent thinking in people of all ages, launched by the Redwood City Public Library;

—Filoli Annual Haiku Competition and Ecopoetry Award engaging not only the beauty of nature but also the impacts of climate change, with over 3,000 submissions since 2020;

—Proclamation of National Poetry Month by the County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors and the mayors of 11 cities in the county, as well as a countywide celebration of poetry including raising of the Speak Poetry banner at the County Center on April 1st, 2022;

—Poets RISE at the 2020 & 2022 San Mateo County Women’s Leadership Conference;

—“Love in the Time of Covid-19: A Community Poem for Healthcare Workers and Other Frontliners,” the first collaborative poem which raised funds for pandemic relief efforts and was also used as resource material or featured in California and four other states (CT, TX, MN, HI);

—Skyline College Poetry Corner Series celebrating poetry and themes of belonging, diversity, social justice and equity;

—youth programs (e.g. competitions, workshops, youth poet laureate campaigns etc) in partnership with the San Mateo County Office of Arts & Culture, Office of Education, Mental Health Services, Youth Climate Ambassadors, Commission on the Status of Women, member libraries of the Peninsula Library System, Daly City Public Library Associates, City of South San Francisco, City of Menlo Park, Filoli, the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, and many more, to empower youth, support mental health, advance social justice, and encourage greater civic participation.

What I am most grateful for, however, are the relationships I built and communities I upheld. I am ever so grateful that poetry has allowed my story to connect with yours. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has truly been an honor and privilege to have served as your poet laureate.

With much respect,
Aileen
To find out more about my work as poet laureate, please visit:
Speak Poetry in San Mateo County 
Dear Aileen Cassinetto 2022
State of poetry in the county
The Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship
The Future is Poetry
Power to the Poets

Poet Laureate’s National Poetry Month 2022 Campaign

It is National Poetry Month all over San Mateo County! The County of San Mateo and cities in the county are proclaiming April as National Poetry Month upon the request of San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto. Ms. Cassinetto is also spearheading several events to celebrate poetry and the work of poets in the county.

On April 1st, the “Speak Poetry in San Mateo County” banner was put up at the County Center in Redwood City, with support from the Offices of Supervisor Warren Slocum and Supervisor Carole Groom, the Office of Arts and Culture, and the county’s Public Works team. The Speak Poetry web archive was launched the same day featuring the bios, poems and civic engagements of over 70 poets from San Mateo County and the work of over 200 youth poets, as well as more than 70 poets from the greater Bay Area with ties to the county.

Following National Poetry Month proclamations by the County Supervisors and the mayors and councilmembers of the cities of Pacifica, Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City, Brisbane, Menlo Park, San Bruno, Belmont, Half Moon Bay, East Palo Alto, Daly City and the Midcoast Community Council, activities, readings and programs have been launched around the county celebrating local poets and the role of poetry in our communities, including a Makerspace Poetry Lab pilot project for all ages to promote STEAM and encourage various ways of looking at the world in terms of relationships and possibilities. Additionally, almost 200 trees have been planted in honor of San Mateo County’s poets and poetry advocates, individually and as a group, for their many ways of making and giving and paying it forward.

Launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month reminds the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and, of course, poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives. 

Check out poetry events near you. Happy National Poetry Month!

Youth ecopoetry workshops

APRIL 14, THURSDAY, 4PM-5PM
DEAR EARTH, DEAR BILLIE EILISH

Students grades 5-12, please join us on April 14, Thursday, 4-5pm for "Dear Earth, Dear Billie Eilish", a Youth Poetry Zoom Reading & Workshop with San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto & teen poet Keiki Leni Ward. We'll be exploring climate change and working on poems inspired by the songs of Billie Eilish, Childish Gambino and Alessia Cara. Bring poems to share or just listen!
Register here.
APRIL 16, SATURDAY, 1PM
TEEN MAKERS @MAKERSPACE RCPL

Interactive reading & poetry-making with San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto and teen poets Cassandra Bousquet & Chloe Chou. We'll be reading and making journals and found poems using recycled objects in our Makerspace!
Redwood City Public Library, 1044 Middlefield Rd. Redwood City. More info here.

Poetry @Makerspace

Scenes from Poetry Makers at Redwood City Public Library! Mayor Giselle Hale of Redwood City issued the Proclamation for National Poetry Month and we successfully launched the Makerspace Poetry Lab pilot project for all ages, the first of its kind in San Mateo County, which integrates the arts into the library's makerspace program. We will be making poems and exploring ideas for poems using the tools in the makerspace every Wednesday night in April. All events are open to all ages, except for Poetry Teen Makers on April 16. Participating poets include San Mateo County Poets Laureate Emerita Lisa Rosenberg & Caroline Goodwin, Redwood City teacher and poet Coco Peezy, and South San Francisco’s Kevin Madrigal Galindo, author of Hell/a Mexican.

As the late and great poet and peace activist Thích Nhất Hạnh said, “If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be  no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper... As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.” Which is another way to refer to systems thinking, poetry and makerspaces, which are all ways of looking at the world in terms of relationships and possibilities. Happy National Poetry Month and Happy National Library Week!

*This was the 6th #NationalPoetryMonth proclamation in #SanMateoCounty ❤️

Schedule of proclamations: 
County of San Mateo, April 5 at 9am
City of Pacifica, March 28 at 7pm
City of Burlingame, April 4, 7pm
City of San Mateo, April 4 at 7pm
City of Redwood City, April 6, 6:30pm
City of Brisbane, April 7 at 7:30pm
City of Menlo Park, April 12 at 6pm
City of San Bruno, April 12 at 7pm
City of Belmont, April 12 at 7pm
City of Half Moon Bay, April 19 at 7pm
City of Daly City, April 25 at 7pm
City of East Palo Alto
Midcoast Community Council (representing Montara, Moss Beach, El Granada, Princeton, and Miramar)
#sanmateocounty #speakpoetryinsanmateocounty #STEAM

Speak Poetry in San Mateo County

Happy National Poetry Month!

Today I launched the “Speak Poetry in San Mateo County” web archive featuring poets from San Mateo County and those with ties to the county. It is a celebration of poetry and its many roles in our shared humanity. It is also an invitation to connect and explore natural & literary ecosystems and human relationships. Lastly, it hopes to honor the land by presenting a diverse and balanced narrative of our lived experience, inside and outside the margins. The archives feature the bios, works and civic engagements of over 340 poets from all around the Bay Area, including over 200 San Mateo County youth poets and over 70 poets from the county.

This project is made possible with support from the County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors and The Academy of American Poets, with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To celebrate the launch, a banner was raised at the County Center in Redwood City, in collaboration with the offices of Supervisor Warren Slocum and Supervisor Carole Groom, and the Office of Arts and Culture.

Academy of American Poets Interview

The Academy of American Poets interview with Poet Laureate Fellow Aileen Cassinetto

“A poem is an ecosystem where life happens. There’s ruthlessness, but also so much grace and so much possibility. Poetry situates us where our story connects with other stories, where we navigate bodies and language and distance and place with agency and urgency. We don’t always get clarity and illumination, but the simple act of connecting may lead us to write ourselves into a world and a future that we want to see.” Read the full interview here.

Highlights 2019-2021

Aileen Cassinetto was appointed by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to serve as Poet Laureate in October 2018. In January 2019, she launched her “Speak Poetry in San Mateo County” campaign in schools, city halls, the county jail, nursing facilities and local libraries. In April 2020, she curated the community poem, “Love in the Time of COVID-19 for Healthcare Workers and Other Frontliners,” which raised funds for the San Mateo County Health Foundation and was also featured in the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in Minnesota, the Montgomery Independent School District in Texas, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Hawaii. In January 2021, she released the poetry anthology, I Have a Dream: Inaugural Poems for a New Generation featuring poems by 115 students ages 6 to 16 from all around San Mateo County. In June 2021, Aileen was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and awarded $50,000 to work on a project that will equip youth with the language of ecopoetry as a way to broaden the search for creative solutions to climate change.

Extension of term as Poet Laureate

Appointment to the Commission on the Status of Women

BREATHE, an Official Selection in the Nature & Culture Poetry Film Festival in Copenhagen

BREATHE is an Official Selection in the Nature & Culture – Poetry Film Festival and will be screened at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge Cultural Center (Denmark) on November 21st & 28th! SMC youth’s crowdsourced poem, “Breathe,” will also be included in an anthology forthcoming from Poetic Phonotheque, Copenhagen. “Breathe” features work by Cassandra Bousquet, Chloe Chou, Bellamy Cramer, Ronit Das, Arda Inegol, Samantha Ishikawa, Maya Kornyeyeva, Iris Li, Caroline Lim, Allen Mata, Hanna Docampo Pham, Emma Roginski , Marissa Teng, and Payton Zolck, with additional lines by National Youth Poet Laureate Alexandra Huynh.

*BREATHE, the first in a series of short films exploring the layered connections between nature and culture through poetry, is made possible by The Academy of American Poets with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

June 2021 to June 2022: Youth Ecopoetry Project

As part of my Academy of American Poets project, I am organizing ecopoetry workshops and working on a series of short poetry films that will highlight San Mateo County’s ecology and how our youth are responding to environmental challenges.

“Ecopoetry generally refers to poetry about ecology, ecosystems, environmental injustice, animals, agriculture, climate change, water, and even food. It emerged in the 1990s as poets questioned the naturalness of “nature poetry,” especially since nature itself was rapidly changing due to global warming and environmental destruction.” (Craig Santos Perez, “Teaching Ecopoetry in a Time of Climate Change,” The Georgia Review Fall 2020).

As a poet and an immigrant, I am compelled to engage the environmental changes around me through the lens of equity and empathy, especially since the places I call home are at risk: San Mateo County is California’s ground zero for sea level rise; while the Philippines is the country most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Hence, these questions: how do we begin to search for more creative solutions to climate change? How can the language of ecopoetry help us reimagine a more sustainable future?

The Academy of American Poets interviewed me about my project and laureateship here.

Students grade 12 and below who are interested and wish to find out more, please email me at query[at]speakpoetry.org.

August 2021: Youth Ecopoetry Workshop

Save the date: August 11, 2021 at 5pm Pacific via Zoom!

Youth Ecopoets’ Workshop with 2020 U.S. Youth Poet Laureate & 2020 UN Sustainable Development Goals Ambassador Meera Dasgupta

Organized by San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto and the South San Francisco Public Library, this workshop is made possible by the Academy of American Poets with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and in partnership with the San Mateo County Office of Arts & Culture and Urban Word NYC.

This workshop is free and open to all SF Bay Area high school students. Register here.