SJSU in the News: Lecturer Has a Way With Words

Sally Ashton Named Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

Originally posted by Santa Clara County March 1, 2011

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors appointed Sally Ashton to the honorary post of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. Ashton was recommended to the Board following the call for applications, and a two step review process organized by the County and Arts Council Silicon Valley.

“Sally Ashton brings a wealth of creative experience to the post of Poet Laureate,” Kniss said. “She will do a fine job in helping to make poetry accessible to the community.”

Ashton is a poet, writer, teacher, and editor of the DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art. She is author of Some Odd Afternoon, BlazeVOX, 2010, and a prose poem collection, Her Name Is Juanita, Kore Press, 2009. Both books received Pushcart Prize nominations. These Metallic Days was published in 2005 as part of Main Street Rag’s Editor’s Choice Chapbook Series. Poems also appear in An Introduction to the Prose Poem, and Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes, as well as journals such as Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, 5am, Mississippi Review and Poet Lore.

“What an honor to be given this opportunity. As Poet Laureate, I look forward to building on the success of Santa Clara County’s first Poet Laureate, Nils Peterson, to work with the community of local poets and also to engage people who may lack an appreciation of poetry’s significance to life in Silicon Valley today,” Ashton said. “I’m excited to be working to promote poetry as a part of our lives in Santa Clara County.”

In 2006, Ashton produced and directed the first California Poets Festival for Poetry Center San Jose at History Park, as well as a second NEA sponsored festival in 2007, with upwards of 200 in attendance. She earned her MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches creative writing and composition at her alma mater, San José State University, as well as through a variety of workshops. She is the recipient of an Artist Fellowship, Poetry, from Arts Council Silicon Valley.

Ashton will take the two-year post on April 1, 2011, the first day of National Poetry Month. She is the second poet laureate to be appointed. Nils Peterson was appointed March 24, 2009 to a two-year term that expires on March 31, 2011.

The poet laureate post, approved by the Board in November 2008, was advocated by Supervisor Liz Kniss in an effort to elevate poetry in the awareness of Santa Clara County residents and to help celebrate the literary arts. The Poet Laureate acts as a resource for poetry and literary activities to the Santa Clara County Library, represents the County of Santa Clara through outreach related to poetry, conducts presentations of appropriate works at the annual State of the County ceremony and other selected County sponsored events, as well as at activities to celebrate Poetry Month.

The County issued a call for applications on Sept. 22, 2010. The final deadline for applications was Dec. 15, 2010. A Peer Review Panel reviewed applications and rated candidates based on artistic merit, commitment to the community, and alignment of the proposed project with the Poet Laureate mission. The top three candidates were interviewed. Ashton emerged as the recommended nominee for appointment by the Board.

“The Arts Council is honored to be an integral part of the selection process for the Santa Clara County Poet Laureate program,” said Nancy Glaze, Interim Executive Director of Arts Council Silicon Valley. “We are certain that Sally will bring her own inspirational voice and perspective to this important role. We would also like to thank Nils Peterson, for his creative leadership and energy as the first Poet Laureate in this County.”

The Poet Laureate will receive a modest honorarium.

To learn more about the Poet Laureate program, go to the county’s poet laureate website.

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Santa Clara County Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Anna Weldon, Director of Communications, Arts Council Silicon Valley (408) 998-2787, ext. 217