SJSU’s 15th Annual Legacy of Poetry Festival Pays Homage to Climate Change: April 20 and 22–24

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Community Engagement

SJSU’s 15th annual Legacy of Poetry Festival kicks off on April 20.

In honor of National Poetry Month, San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition, in association with the SJSU College of Humanities and the Arts and Poetry Center San Jose, will host the 2022 Legacy of Poetry Fest “Can Poetry Save the Planet?” The festival is planned as a marathon of poetry readings and events, welcoming an in-person audience and also streaming live online on April 20 and 22–24. 

The festival, coordinated by the SJSU Legacy of Poetry Consortium, will spotlight several nationally notable poetry events at the Student Union Theater, the Hammer Theatre, and Nirvana Soul Coffee Shop (co-founded by Oladapo “Dap” Ashaolu, ’05 Management) in downtown San José. The festival is timed to coincide with Earth Day, William Shakespeare’s birthday and National Poetry Month. This year marks the festival’s 15th anniversary. 

“As human beings and poets, we’re all worried — even disturbed — about climate change and the resulting extreme weather, wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing Alan Soldofsky. 

“We are looking to share our emotions about these issues. We want to use the art of poetry to wake up others to our urgent concerns about all the damage being done to our planet — and at the local level to our communities — before it’s too late.” 

The festival kicks off with a spotlight event at 7 p.m. on April 20 sponsored by SJSU’s Center for Literary Art at Nirvana Soul Coffee Shop in downtown San José. The event will feature 2020–2021 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Janice Lobo Sapigao and LAMBDA Literary Fellow Yosimar Reyes and will be available as a live stream on Crowdcast. An open mic will follow.

Additional events that will be staged in the Hammer Theatre and the Student Union Theater April 22–24, “recogniz[e] the fear and frustration we share,” says Soldofsky, “as climate change causes more extreme droughts, fires and floods around the world and is the cause of wars and mass human migrations. Though it isn’t the solution, poetry can be a catalyst for moving others to find solutions and to seek environmental justice.”

The Legacy of Poetry Fest will also recognize the important contributions of poet and SJSU graduate Edwin Markham, whose 150th graduation anniversary will be celebrated with a preview of a biopic chronicling some of his important contributions to the early literary-focused social justice identity connected to the San José Normal School — the institution that evolved to become first San José State College and later San José State University.  

Legacy of Poetry Fest will also feature several of its faculty poets at 5:30 p.m. on April 22, including poet Rachelle Escamilla — author of two award-winning poetry collections, “Imaginary Animal” and “Me Drawing a Picture of Me(n).” — who has returned to teach at SJSU after several years at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. Also featured is SJSU’s newest creative writing faculty member J. Michael Martinez, award-winning author of poetry collections including “The Museum of the Americas,” selected for the National Poetry Series, and Walt Whitman Prize-winning debut collection, “Heredities.” Graphic novelist, SJSU lecturer and poet Johnny Damm, whose “Failure Biographies” (The Operating System), was named by the Publishers Weekly Critics Poll as one of the best graphic novels of 2021, will also read.

San José State recognizes how poetry can inspire and offer hope to broad and diverse audiences, says College of Business Professor Annette Nellen, the festival’s co-founder, who serves as the festival’s chief archivist. The 2022 festival offers a lineup of readings and webinars featuring poets from San José State, the South Bay community and across the nation. 

The 2022 Legacy of Poetry Fest: Can Poetry Save the Planet? is sponsored by the SJSU College of Humanities and the Arts through an Artistic Excellence Programming Grant; Associated Students of SJSU; the San José Story Map Project; the SJSU Office of Sustainability; and the SJSU Environmental Resource Center. Additional community sponsors include Poetry Center San José, Poets and Writers, Inc. and is produced in association with the SJSU Center for Literary Arts. 

Visit the Legacy of Poetry festival website to register for events.