California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick invites Californians to submit poems about their state

Here’s an opportunity for local poets who write about California.

Inspired by “My California,” California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick’s ode to the Golden State, the California Arts Council has announced the first phase of Our California, an inclusive and participatory arts project that invites all Californians to write a poem about their city, town, or state and explore what they love about it, what they find in it, what they would change about it, or what hopes they hold for it.

“Each of us has a unique experience and relationship with California,” said California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick. “It is a place of bounty of innovation, opportunity and progress, as well as difficulty and violence, challenges, and areas of need. Poetry can be a bridge to personal and societal change, and it can show us new ways of seeing ourselves and the world around us.”

Our California is a joint project of California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick and the California Arts Council, with support from the California State Library. The project encourages Californians across the state to share their feelings about the place in which they live through the art of poetry. A portal for participants to submit their works will be added to the California Poet Laureate website later this fall. Submissions will be published to the site on a quarterly basis.

No matter the writer’s age, origin, gender or background, all are invited to contribute their art to the project.

“Join our state Poet Laureate, Lee Herrick, and the California Arts Council, in sharing your poem and celebrating our great state,” said CAC Executive Director Jonathan Moscone. “Whether you’re an experienced or an aspiring poet, we encourage everyone to participate and share your creativity.”

 The goals of Our California are:

  • To encourage Californians to write poetry, to think about their communities, and to realize that their voice is important.
  • To inspire Californians to write poetry that uplifts all people through awareness of social justice or civic engagement.
  • To elevate poetry writing as a way to explore one’s creativity and relationship to place.

How to get involved
Write a poem (any form, up to 50 lines) about your town, city, or state. For more information about the guidelines and suggested prompts, visit: https://capoetlaureate.org/ourcalifornia.

Stay tuned for the next project phase, announcing the opening of the Our California poetry submission portal, coming later this fall.

Submission requirements
Submissions must be unpublished works. The CAC will not censor any poems, but it reserves the right to remove poems from our service if they are plagiarized or if they contain content deemed offensive on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

About California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick
The role of the California Poet Laureate is to spread the art of poetry across the state, to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists, and to educate all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced California creative literary expression.

California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick speaks at Fresno City College. He invites Californians to submit poems about their state. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, the Fresno City College Rampage.

“I am deeply honored, humbled, and excited to be named California Poet Laureate,” said Herrick, who will use his platform called Our California to bring together poetry with a social justice or civic engagement organization in each city that he visits during his term as Poet Laureate.

“I am grateful to Governor Newsom, his staff, First Partner Siebel Newsom, the Fresno Arts Council (and) the city of Fresno for making me a poet, poets and writers and readers throughout this great state, friends, teachers, colleagues, students, and mostly, my family, parents and sister, and my wife and daughter for their love and light.”

Over the course of a two-year term, the California Poet Laureate provides public readings and engagement in urban and rural settings across the state; educates civic and state leaders about the value of poetry and creative expression; and undertakes a significant cultural project that aims to bring the poetic arts to students who might otherwise have little opportunity to be exposed to poetry.

“I am delighted to learn that Fresno poet Lee Herrick has been selected to the post of California Poet Laureate,” said California Arts Council Chair Lilia Gonzáles-Chávez, who also serves as Executive Director of the Fresno Arts Council. “[Herrick] is a wonderful example of the talented writers and poets that hail from the Central San Joaquin Valley. I know he will represent us well across the state.”