NaPoMo in San Mateo!

It is National Poetry Month all over San Mateo 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. We also launched our Speak Poetry web archive 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!

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

San Mateo County Youth Toward a More Sustainable Future

There is a pattern we burn 

into the night sky, & it will not be of chemical 

but compassion for all that is light.

Last year I woke up and

the sky was tangerine, 

sick with smoke

because we live in a world where

things are valued more dead than alive

and where we value today so much

we don’t even think about tomorrow,

but in less than twelve years

we’ll be running out of tomorrows.

So tell me,

how do we redefine value?

Humans are warming the planet

Smoke days replace our parents’ snow days

Being told the children are the future

Uncertain if we have one in store

Look around you

Breathe if you can

It’s code red for humanity.

Hazy skylines

the redness of the map

Plumes of black smoke, billowing, 

mixing with lavender clouds and orange flame

Yellowed lawns in my neighborhood

The taste of burnt toast in my mouth

Parts of my community lost

As decades of damage, destruction, and hate

Come down like a meteor that never saw space.

We must be united to fight it

We must all take accountability

Reduce CO2 and methane emissions to zero.

We have caused this

We are the only ones who can fix this

We can have a sustainable future.

Sitting in my bedroom staring at the screen

Wondering if this is always what I’ll see

Longing for action, longing for change

Saving the world from climate change

I am learning, struggling, and exploring 

Right now I want to make a difference

To know I am safe

I want to live in a world with no pollution

With rainbows in the skies.

Curated by San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto. This poem is part of an ecopoetry project made possible by The Academy of American Poets with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contributors: 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.

Published in Nature & Culture (Copenhagen: Red Press Kulturhuset Islands Brygge & Københavns Kommune, 2021).

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 write[at]aileencassinetto.com.

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.

May 2021: Midpen Media Celebrates Youth Poets

San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto is joined by The Midpen Media Center founder Elliot Margolies, local teacher Jim Ward, contributors to the youth anthology, I Have a Dream: Inaugural Poems for a New Generation, and winners and finalists of the 2020 Housing Leadership Council Youth Poetry Competition, 2021 Daly City Youth Poet Laureate Competition, and 2021 Poetry Out Loud Competition.