SJSU Hosts Annual Legacy of Poetry Festival: Feeding Our Hunger

by | Apr 27, 2023 | Campus Life

This year’s Legacy of Poetry Festival is dedicated to responding to food insecurities through poetry, and features Juan Felipe Herrera, 2023 Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry.

In honor of National Poetry Month, San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the 2023 SJSU Legacy of Poetry Festival: “Feeding Our Hunger” from April 28–30 at the Diaz Compean Student Union Theater.

This festival’s theme is “Feeding Our Hunger” and each day will have a specific subtheme — “Sharing Our Food and Culture,” “Feeding Our Hunger,” and “Ghost of César Chávez.” The event includes a series of poetry readings and special events, welcoming an in-person audience and streaming online.

Headliners at the festival include U.S. Poet Laureate Emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera and award-winning playwright, storyteller and poet Luis Valdez, ’64 English, ’88 Honorary Doctorate. This year’s special guest is California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick. Major poets around California will also participate by giving readings and performances during the three-day festival.

Herrera was recently named the 2023 recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. The PSA said in their announcement that “Juan Felipe Herrera does not write poems so much as inhabit them.” The Frost Medal is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in American poetry and is awarded annually at the discretion of the PSA Board of Governors.

“The focus is on how poetry responds to the region’s food insecurity and can become a vehicle for sharing food culture(s),” said Alan Soldofsky, professor of English and director of creative writing at San José State. “The festival’s goal is to demonstrate how poetry can increase empathy and engagement with issues of hunger and food insecurity on the SJSU campus community and the surrounding region.”

Here is an overview of each day’s planned programs:

  • April 28: “SHARING OUR FOOD AND CULTURE(S)”: Readings from SJSU faculty, staff, alumni and student poets. Special readings from SJSU officials, including SJSU President Cynthia Tentiente-Matson. Featuring a special appearance by poet and memoirist Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and Professor. J. Michael Martinez reading from his forthcoming poetry book, “Tarta Americana.”
  • April 29: “FEEDING OUR HUNGER”: Keynote poetry performance by Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate 2015-17, featuring current California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick, and former Santa Clara County Poet Laureates Sally Ashton, ’01 English, and Arlene Biala, ’90 Psychology.
  • April 30: “GHOST OF CÉSAR CHÁVEZ”: Keynote poetry performance with playwright, essayist, poet and alumnus Luis Valdez; featuring David Dominguez and Xochiquetzal Candelaria. Special guest appearance by Yosimar Reyes. 

The Legacy of Poetry 2023 Festival is free and open to the public.