Now, in a growing trend, municipalities around the state, including Danville, are appointing their own laureates. Currently, there are 23 such poets, the majority of whom are located in the culturally superior northern part of the state. In December of last year, Danville named its first laureate, Nancy Fraze, who was among several poets applying for the post.
Although all opportunities have not yet been fully developed, Danville Poet Laureate will be writing and presenting poetry at the will of the Town Council for official events, as well as publishing and promoting poetry for the enjoyment of the community. Her term runs until June 2011.
An early assignment was to pen a piece for the mayoral installation in December. She wrote and presented, "Timeless Legacy." An excerpt:
This Town, our Town of Danville, belongs right now to folks just like you and me.
We came by birth, by marriage, by school location or by job transfer.
We've come here to live; to breathe, to love and work and play.
We're building a future and farming our today.
I recently sat down with Fraze at the Pioneer Gallery, where two of her poems accompany paintings in the gallery's ekphrasis exhibit. (Ekphrasis is a form of expression in which one type of art inspires another.)
"Rather than write a poem about this and that painting," says Fraze, "what if the two poems each told half of a story and the truth is somewhere between them. To get the whole story, you have to read both and then you're still left with questions about what the reality was."
One reality for Fraze is that she wants to "bring poetry out to the streets." And to libraries, restaurants, parks and town events - so that people will "find poetry in unexpected places."
"Poetry and creative arts have a way of getting underneath our defenses and touching our hearts," she says. "I want to touch peoples' hearts ... expose them to poetry. I just imagine poetry making things better."
Fraze is passionate about poetry. She started reading it in elementary school, scurrying to the dictionary when she encountered unfamiliar words. This budding poet wrote her first verse, "The Song of the Wind's Daughter," in sixth grade.
As influences, she named Edgar A. Guest, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "classic poets." She also mentioned her favorite book of verse, "Best Loved Poems of the American People," which her father sent to her mother from Europe during World War II. Nancy has that book to this day.
Laureates gathering in Livermore
Many of the state's poets laureate gathered March 7 at the Livermore Public Library to socialize and read some of their work. The library features a photo exhibit of the current and past poets laureate, which can be viewed at http://web.mac.com/joeleon/Laureates/Poets_Laureate.html. The exhibit runs through the end of the month.
Art and Artists of the Valley, Museum of the San Ramon Valley, through May 30. www.museumsrv.org.
--John A. Barry is a writer and aspiring artist. To share anything art-related, call him at 314-9528 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.