Sacramento, California, Poetry Day is Tuesday, October 26

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Sacramento has a rich history of poetry and oral creation. Our poets, programs, organizations and activations are recognized nationally and internationally.

Sacramento artists make a daily impact on the world with their lyrics. If you haven’t been to Mahogany, Luna’s, Sol Collective, The Brickhouse, Foreign Native, the Sacramento Poetry Center, or any of the other open mics in this city, you might have missed the practice grounds where some of the most important poets of this generation have shaped their voice and the progression of an art form. Earlier this year, Alexandra Huynh, a former student of Sacramento Area Youth Speaks, became the National Poet Laureate.

The poets of Sacramento who make history are nothing new. This Tuesday, the city celebrates its 35th Annual Sacramento Poetry Day; a day that wouldn’t exist without a few wild poets with great vision.

Around 1984, a Sacramento poet named BL Kennedy came up with the idea of ​​collecting and preserving works from writers in the city. His friend Patrick Grizzell supported the idea and presented it to the Sacramento Poetry Center, which launched a city-wide community effort to promote it and raise funds to produce it.

Kennedy and Grizzell enlisted Ann Menebroker, Douglas Blazek, and CK Dobbs to edit the written portion. The collection would eventually be published by the Sacramento Poetry Center and would become known as Landing Signals (taken from the title of a tapestry by poet / artist DR Wagner), the city’s premier poetry anthology.

An audio collection of additional works accompanied the book, edited by Kennedy and Grizzell, and recorded on cassette (kids, ask your parents). The project was completed and published in 1985. Mayor Anne Rudin, who was enthusiastic about the city’s arts, learned about the first such anthology from a young state administrator named Carol Finley , a fervent supporter of the arts. Finley asked the mayor to officially recognize the landing signals project and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thirty-five years since the proclamation that said, “WHEREAS October 26, 1986 is a turning point for the poets of Sacramento,” as we recover from a global pandemic, we are at a new turning point; one that requires a paradigm shift regarding our connections to ourselves, to each other and to nature. Pandemics have historically included cultural changes, including the development of print media, the movement for universal health care, and the birth of a middle class. They also inspired incredible explosions of human creativity, including the Italian Renaissance, the rise of jazz, and the Harlem Renaissance.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the poets of Sacramento for their contributions to the city and to our own rebirth over the past two years. The landscape has changed so much during my brief period of quarantine as a Poet Laureate. I can’t wait to see the rest.

I also want to encourage future poets in the city to write a bit on October 26th and have fun with it. Poetry is how we speak to each other in existence, so don’t be afraid to write without limitation.

There are many styles, from short forms like Haiku, Acrostic, Limerick, and Cinquain, to longer forms like sonnets, narrative poems, and elegies. Or you can just write free verse. Rhyme or not. Write a rap. Write a statement. Create your own counter or follow someone else’s. Google what the counter means and realize that every good speech and every good song has one too.

A lot of things are poetry that you don’t realize. And many of us are poets without knowing it. I love you. Keep writing. Continue to heal. Happy Sacramento Poetry Day.

Andru Defeye will read alongside first Sacramento Poet Laureate Viola Spencer and Patrick Grizzel online and in person at the Sacramento Poetry Center Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. Also open the microphone. Sacramento poetry performances and interviews will be broadcast throughout the day on the Sacramento Poetry Salon Facebook page.

This story was originally published October 24, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

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