November 2020: Re-EnVISIONing Our Future Together

San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto and Skyline College collaborate to present a reading and panel discussion, Re-EnVISIONing Our Future Together, that hopes “to find clarity and to imagine a future that celebrates both our commonalities and our differences.” The event will feature Virginia Poet Laureate Luisa A. Igloria and former San Antonio Poet Laureate Octavio Quintanilla. November 6 at 4pm Pacific via Zoom.

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October 2020: County Board Resolution

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Board of Supervisors, County of San Mateo, State of California

RESOLUTION TO EXTEND THE TERM OF AILEEN CASSINETTO TO THE HONORARY POST OF SAN MATEO COUNTY POET LAUREATE FOR AN ADDITIONAL YEAR FROM JANUARY 1, 2021 THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2021

RESOLVED, by the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Mateo, State of California, that

WHEREAS, the County of San Mateo is fortunate to have a thriving and active community of poets; and

WHEREAS, County Poet Laureate can offer skills to create, employ and read poetry to promote awareness and heighten the appreciation of poetry and the literary arts; and

WHEREAS, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors established the creation of the honorary post of Poet Laureate to elevate and celebrate the literary arts in our community, and established a Poet Laureate Advisory Committee to implement a process and criteria for selection of the Poet Laureate; and

WHEREAS, San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto began her two-year term as Poet Laureate of San Mateo County on January 1, 2019, and since that time has spread enthusiasm for literary arts through her “Speak Poetry” project; and

WHEREAS, the work of San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto during this pandemic has been exemplary, particularly her outreach to youth who have been distance learning since March; and

WHEREAS, it is important to have continuity in the Poet Laureate program during these most challenging times and by extending the Poet Laureate’s term allows for her to carry on her meaningful work; and

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY DETERMINED AND ORDERED that the Board of Supervisors approves of the extension of term of Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto to December 31, 2021.

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 & Poetry

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

Special Reading of San Mateo County’s Community Poem on Memorial Day at the Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut

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. 

Aside from raising money for the San Mateo County Health Foundation, this poem was read at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. It was also cited in the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in Minnesota; used as a resource by the Montgomery Independent School District in Texas; and included in the New Orleans Poetry Festival in Louisiana, The Transcendients Exhibitions which on view until May 16, 2021 at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Hawaii on view until December 18, 2021. San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto was invited to speak about this poem and its extensive impact at the San Mateo County Community & Covid: 4th Town Hall on April 29, 2021.

Contributors:

San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom, 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, Susan Kokores, Heidi Leupp, Victoria Maier Magbilang, Veronica Montes, Carol Mukhopadhyay, Amy Pabalan, Ann Powers, Tony Press, Anita Ferrin Rodman, Diana Ross, Lyla Strauss, Sherri Sunahara, and Craig Wiesner

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 was presented at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Meeting on April 21, 2020.

Love in the Time of COVID-19

A Community Poem for Healthcare Workers and Other Frontliners, from San Mateo County

Your voice holds me
when your arms cannot.

You spoke calming words to me
as I slipped into sleep,

and yours were the first eyes I saw
as I came out from under the fog.

Afraid and alone, you hold
our hands through the darkness.

Wingless angels dressed in scrubs,
footfall on our steps,

jasmine scent, a bag of groceries
on our doorstep,

a tap on the window,
a neighbor’s wave,

a newly-sewn mask tossed
(in a plastic bag), to the front

of the door: “run it through the washer
first,” she calls, waves, and departs.

(Fifteen years ago, at fifteen,
just arrived from El Salvador,

she walked into my Jefferson High
ESL class. Today, she is a hero,

daily risking her life for her patients,
while her own children wait

in their fog-shrouded home.)
Earth angels, haloes shining bright,

working with this virus in the air!
We will not despair

You support us
You surround us

Because of you, the world
will get brighter,

socially un-distancing.
Bless the arms that hold you today.

My arms ache with the energy
of a thousand unspent hugs,

eager to envelope someone
in an embrace so all-encompassing

as to make us both forget all that’s happened,
if only for a moment.

We’re all joining hands,
guests on this planet,

across many lands.
We are forever grateful

to the warriors who save lives.
Time to recognize the real heroes,

brilliant shadows, as we’ve never
seen before. God calls us

to opportunity, it is for each
of us to claim. Our neighbor

is our brother, is our sister,
is our keeper, is our healer.

As soldiers, you stand tall,
ready for the next patient who calls.

Your love and care exemplify
heroism without compare.

Without you, our country would be
facing an even larger catastrophe.

Doctors and nurses and other
frontliners, with help to give.

Some deliver goods,
some clean and scrub,

stock the shelves,
and work so hard

so we can stay in our space.
You can do it, you can make it,

single mom working two shifts,
exhausted nursing home staff

and loyal admin staff,
fighting against depression

and confusion. Dementia.
Dressing up in silly costumes,

dancing down the halls,
holding iPads high

so loved ones can see,
their elderly parent

who are unable to communicate,
reassuring them

that everything will be okay.
Smiling faces, heads pounding,

tirelessly ensuring
the outside world

stays ‘outside’
and residents stay safe.

For the inner strength,
courage and compassion

with which you serve,
our eternal devotion, you so deserve.

For all your efforts,
may you be blessed

a thousandfold. Where we are,
the tired ghosts of fearful uncertainty

welcome the laughter
that champions the heart,

as help travels at the speed of light
to spread hope in desperate times,

for the speed of love turns out
to be the speed of light.

A gentle reminder:
Be safe. Be well.

Be kind. Which is to say,
shelter in safety and love.

Everybody’s home
and nobody’s alone.

February 2020: Poetry Out Loud

San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto as one of 3 judges in the 2nd Annual San Mateo County Poetry Out Loud Competition sponsored by the Arts Commission. Poetry Out Loud is a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Over the past 11 years, Poetry Out Loud has reached more than 3 million students and 45,000 teachers from 10,000 schools nationwide.