PAST POETS LAUREATE
Sacramento has five past Poets Laureate: Indigo Moor, Jeff Knorr, Bob Stanley, Julia Connor, Jose Montoya, Dennis Schmitz & Viola Weinberg (Dennis and Viola shared the position of the first Poet Laureate).
The Sacramento Poet Laureate Program was established in February 2000 and is designed to extend and bring to life the power and beauty of poetry and the spoken word to our community. The Sacramento Poet Laureate Program strives to encourage literary awareness by the general public. Sacramento's immediate past Poet Laureate is Jeff Knorr. Other past Poets Laureate include Bob Stanley, Julia Connor, Jose Montoya, Dennis Schmitz and Viola Weinberg.
Sacramento Poet Laureate 2017 - 2019
Indigo Moor is a poet, playwright and author currently residing in Sacramento, CA. his second book of poetry, Through the Stonecutter's Window, won Northwestern University Press's Cave Canem prize. His first book, Tap-Root, was published as part of Main Street Rag's Editor's Select Poetry Series. Three of his short plays, Harvest, Shuffling, and The Red and Yellow Quartet debuted at the 60 Million Plus Theatre’s Spring Playwright’s festival. His stageplay, Live! at the Excelsior, was a finalist for the Images Theatre Playwright Award and is being made into a full length film. A graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Program—where he studied poetry, fiction, and scriptwriting--Indigo is also a graduate member of the Artist's Residency Institute for Teaching Artists and former Vice President of the Sacramento Poetry Center. Winner of the 2005 Vesle Fenstermaker Prize for Emerging Writers, a 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee, and 2008 Jack Kerouac Poetry contest, Indigo's other honors include: finalist finishes for the T.S. Eliot Prize, Crab Orchard First Book Prize, Saturnalia First Book Award, Naomi Long Madgett Book Award, and WordWorks Prize. Indigo teaches workshops throughout the Bay area and the greater Sacramento Valley region.
Sacramento Poet Laureate 2012-2015
"Under my tenure as Poet Laureate, I envision being a very active member of the arts community. I would like to help bridge genres within the community by creating events where young and old, traditional and spoken word, musicians, visual artists, and poets find themselves mixing to enjoy what each has to offer and to grow through access and experimentation. I would also like to make headway into schools, not only by giving readings and talks, but by harnessing the power of writers in the community to have more writers working with kids in elementary and middle schools. Aside from these projects, I see myself being an active representative of SMAC and the literary arts in our region. This means advocating for funding of the arts and advocating for arts organizations and individual artists at the local, county, and state levels. It also means writing and speaking to public officials, the press, community groups, and the general public about the importance of supporting the literary arts." - Jeff Knorr
Jeff Knorr is the author of the three books of poetry, The Third Body (Cherry Grove Collections), Keeper (Mammoth Books), and Standing Up to the Day (Pecan Grove Press). His other works include Mooring Against the Tide: Writing Poetry and Fiction (Prentice Hall); the anthology, A Writer's Country (Prentice Hall); and The River Sings: An Introduction to Poetry (Prentice Hall). His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Chelsea, Connecticut Review, The Journal, North American Review, Red Rock Review, Barrow Street, and Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America (University of Iowa, 2002). He currently directs the River City Writer’s Series at Sacramento City College. Jeff Knorr is Professor of literature and creative writing at Sacramento City College. For more visit www.scc.losrios.edu/~knorrj
Sacramento Poet Laureate, 2009-2012
Bob Stanley is a passionate member of the poetry community and serves as the president of the Sacramento Poetry Center as well as teaches Creative Writing and English at CSU Sacramento. His poems have won a number of awards, including the California Focus on Writers prize in 2006 and have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. He published his first chapbook, Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, released by Rattlesnake Press in 2009. A recommendation by Ray Tatar, Immediate past Literature Coordinator, California Arts Council states, “His light-hearted and energetic approach makes his poetry accessible to a wide audience. He will…reach out to people, so that they can share in the discovery of both the written and spoken words that poetry offers.” Stanley was nominated by Emmanuel Sigauke, board member of the Sacramento Poetry Center. Bob Stanley was officially selected as Poet Laureate on June 8, 2009.
The fact that the Sacramento Poet Laureate program did not have a budget for projects his term, did not stop Bob Stanley. As poet laureate Bob wanted to publicize the work of the many fine writers that call Sacramento home. As Poet Laureate, Bob made over seventy readings and presentations at libraries, schools and civic events in the County. He developed four projects, the County Lines website to feature local writers, the New Voices workshops which gave emerging writers all over the County a chance to attend a writing workshop, Jazz/Poetry Live, an improvisational poetry and jazz event, and a new Sacramento Anthology, which will be published in the fall of 2012.
County Lines - The Poets of Sacramento: This was an ongoing tribute to the poets and writers of Sacramento – people from all walks of life who take time to write, read, publish and support the art of poetry. In eight months, the County Lines website featured twenty-four poets from all over the region. The regular postings to County Lines were also published on Sacramento Press.com.
New Voices: The New Voices workshops ran through the summer and fall of 2010. New Voices offered free poetry-writing classes to the community at libraries around the county. Each series of ninety-minute workshops provided writers of all ages an opportunity to create their own poems or short prose pieces. The Sacramento Poetry Center received a grant from the Sacramento Regional Community Foundation to fund this project, and enlisted other experienced poetry teachers to assist in leading the classes. The Rancho Cordova group produced an anthology of their work entitled Did We Not Meet, and the group read from the book at a festive event in the library, which was attended by Supervisor Nottoli.
Jazz/Poetry/Live: In 2010, a series of improvisational poetry and jazz events took place. These programs featured established musicians and poets, but also offered an opportunity for young and emerging writers and musicians to perform in an “open-mic” setting. Joe Gilman of Capital Jazz Project participated in the project, as well as Ray Tatar of California Stage, and former California poet laureate Al Young.
Sacramento Poet Laureate, 2005-2009
From her unlikely beginnings as a dyslexic child and troubled youth, Julia Connor’s life long exploration of the arts led to an extended colleagueship with renowned potter, poet and educator, M.C. Richards, while raising a son and daughter. In the early 80’s she undertook an apprenticeship and study of poetics at new College of CA, followed by a position as instructor and assistant director of the MFA Writing Program at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. In her six books and numerous journal appearances her work consistently evokes the sense of an immersion in place, finding there the unique intersection with memory that gives rise to the poem. “Connor allows the countryside to become imagination and, as such, it blooms…” says poet Michael McClure. She has received several awards including the Commissioner’s Award from SMAC, a Fellowship in Writing from the CAC, as well as Fellowships from Centrum Arts in Port Townsend, WA; The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico and The Hambidge Center for Arts and Sciences in Rabun Gap, Georgia.
Julia Connor’s intention during her tenure was to foster civic pride by creating poetry projects that celebrated Sacramento, and affected a multitude of participants including youth, the arts community, and the general public. During her term, Julia Connor initiated three projects:
Think Postcard! a mail art project bringing together poetry and the written word with visual arts. Workshops were held all over the Sacramento area and the Sacramento community produced and mailed to the Arts Commission over 900 postcards. The final works were displayed via a travelling exhibit that visited selected Sacramento galleries. The postcards are currently housed at the Sacramento Archives.
Poet Laureate Park is an installation between the South Natomas Community Center and Library, bringing together the poetry of current and past Sacramento poet laureates in a public art piece. The Poet Park was installed April, 2015. Click here for pictures and more information.
Poets on Deck is a deck of playing cards released in the fall of 2008 that features the work of 52 poets and 4 poetry supporters who played instrumental roles in the development of the Sacramento poetry scene in the era leading up to the establishment of the Sacramento Poetry Center.
Sacramento Poet Laureate, 2002-2004
The late José Montoya was a poet and an artist, and one of the most influential Chicano bilingual poets. He published many well-known poems in anthologies and magazines. Making his start soon after the Korean War when he entered San Diego City College as an art student, Montoya later transferred to the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland, California. In the early 1970s, he joined students and members of the Chicano community to found the Rebel Chicano Art Front, later renamed the Royal Chicano Air Force, which organized numerous cultural, educational, and political activities in the Sacramento area. He began his career by teaching High School and then taught for 25 years in the Department of Art Education at CSUS. Jose Montoya died on September 25, 2013.
As his featured project during his tenure as Poet Laureate, Maestro Jose Montoya chose to hold a Festival de Flor y Canto, literally translated “Festival of Flower and Song.” The festival also had the support of over two dozen partners, including local bookstores, writer’s groups, cultural groups and literary organizations. The two-day festival and its preceding Youth and Elder Workshops brought together people of all cultures in a celebration of poetry, both contemporary and traditional, with an emphasis on performance and the sharing of knowledge down through the generations. The elder poets merged with young poets from the Sacramento community and its schools, sparking a profusion of creative fires throughout the festival that had a lasting effect on audience and participants alike, as well as the larger community.
The term Flor y Canto actually dates back to pre-Columbian times. Among the ancient Nahuats (Aztec Indians), as among the Greeks, it was the poets who first became aware of and enunciated the great problems of human existence. The Aztecs used the metaphor, in Xochitl in Cuicatl, flower and song-or flor y canto-in Spanish, which celebrated poetry, “as the only truth on Earth.” Playwright Luís Váldez and poet Alurísta were among the first to link revolutionary literature to these ancient roots, and the idea of “flower and song” lives on as a poetic expression of reverence for life and justice.
DENNIS SCHMITZ AND VIOLA WEINBERG
Sacramento Poets Laureate, 2000-2002
Dennis Schmitz is the author of seven books of poetry and has received numerous awards for his work. He taught for more than 30 years at California State University at Sacramento. Dennis' reputation as an outstanding poet is international. Over his distinguished career, he has seen hundreds of his poems published in magazines and anthologies. His list of awards and recognitions include the di Castignola Award, the Shelley Memorial Award and the Pushcart Prize. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1978-79 and has been a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow three times.
Viola Weinberg's poetry has appeared extensively in journals, newspapers, magazines and anthologies, including Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend and Ladies, Start Your Engines (both Faber & Faber, Boston & London). As a radio journalist, Weinberg worked for the legendary KZAP FM in Sacramento and KQED FM in San Francisco among others. She was the founding director of the International Fund for Photography. For several years she worked with KVIE TV as a coordinating producer and researcher. In 1978, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the California Commission on the Status of Women. In 1996, Viola Weinberg was awarded the Mayor's Award, the highest recognition given to artists in our region.
Sacramento’s first Laureate, a position shared by Dennis Schmitz and Viola Weinberg, produced an anthology of one hundred poems by Sacramento poets called, The Sacramento Anthology: One Hundred Poems. The anthology is not only being sold in bookstores, but is also now used in high school and college classrooms. For three years, the program hosted the Second Monday Favorite Poem Series at the Sacramento Public Library, where ordinary citizens like state and city workers could spend their lunch breaks sharing and spreading their love of poetry. The Mayor and County Board of Supervisors have recognized both former Laureates for these exemplary programs.