SJSU Legacy of Poetry Festival’s 14th Annual Event Goes Online April 15 – 23

Legacy of Poetry 2021

San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the 2021 Legacy of Poetry Festival: “Closing the Distance—Sheltering in Technolog[ies],” online from April 15 – 23.

In honor of National Poetry Month, San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the 2021 Legacy of Poetry Festival: “Closing the Distance—Sheltering in Technolog[ies],” online from April 15 – 23. The SJSU Legacy of Poetry Consortium coordinates the festival.

“As human beings, we have been robbed of contact with one another through social gatherings and literary events for one year now,” said Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing Alan Soldofsky. “The 2021 festival recognizes the pain of isolation that people are experiencing and how poetry—through various technological means—can close the distance between us.”

Recognizing how poetry can inspire and offer hope to broad and diverse audiences, the festival offers a lineup of readings and panels featuring poets from San José State, the South Bay community and across the country. Registration and information for the events is available at the Legacy of Poetry website.

Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m.

The first free keynote event will be an online reading by award-winning poet Lillian-Yvonne Bertram. This event is presented by the SJSU Center for Literary Arts in conjunction with the SJSU College of Humanities and the Arts “Deep Humanities Initiative,” which explores the intersection between the arts and technology. Bertram’s most recent book, Travesty Generator (Noemi Press, 2019), is described as remixing “programming codes … to ruminate on the intersections of race and gender.” Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry, Lilian-Yvonne Bertram writes that she uses “codes and algorithms in an attempt to create work that reconfigures and challenges oppressive narratives for Black people and to imagine new ones.” She considers this “an intervention into a set of literary practices that have historically excluded women and minorities.”

Friday, April 16 at 3 p.m.

The festival will also include a master class on how to startup and sustain an independent literary press. It features the publisher of Noemi Press, American Book Award-winning Carmen Giménez Smith, ’96 English, and Noemi Press senior poetry editor and award-winning poet J. Michael Martinez. Martinez will be joining the SJSU Creative Writing faculty as its newest core member in Fall 2021.

Monday, April 19 at 5 p.m.

A second featured event presents a reading and conversation between Ellen Bass, SJSU’s Lurie distinguished visiting author-in-residence for 2021, and award-winning poet and Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh Toi Derricotte. Both poets have served as chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Tuesday, April 20 at 5 p.m.

The festival will also host a tribute program for eminent San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights Bookstore and City Lights Publishing, who died at age 101 on February 22. Ferlinghetti often visited SJSU to give public readings of his poems, guest-teach poetry workshop classes, and collaborate with art department faculty on printmaking projects that combined visual and literary arts elements. It will feature a screening of the documentary film Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, produced and directed by Chris Felver, who will introduce the film.

Other notable events

Also on the event schedule is a free online reading hosted by SJSU’s REED Magazine, the oldest continuously published literary magazine west of the Mississippi. The event will feature award-winning poet Rodrigo Toscano, winner of REED’s 2020 Edwin Markham Prize, and author of the just-published poetry collection, The Charm and The Dread (Fence Books, 2021). He will read with Santa Cruz Poet Laureate Emeritus Danusha Laméris, who most recently authored a collection of poems titled Bonfire Opera (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).

Poetry Center San José will host a workshop on performing poems and producing poetry videos for Instagram and other social media platforms. Enrollment will be limited and cost $15 for PCSJ members and students with ID and $25 for the general public.

College of Engineering Celebrates 75 Years with Events All Semester Long

Collage of the College of Engineering with a 75th Anniversary badge

The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San José State University is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2021.

“A special mission of this celebration is to let our students know that they are part of a historic college community, and they can be proud of our heritage of innovation,” said Dr. Sheryl Ehrman, the Don Beall Dean of Engineering. “Accordingly, we’re creating opportunities to educate them and the public about some of our key engineering alumni who are shaping the world now, and to share our pride in this global and diverse community of students, faculty, and staff.”

Dr. Ehrman added, “While it has admittedly been difficult to plan festivities during the pandemic, we believe we have enough offerings to sustain engagement with our students and alumni even while everyone is online in the spring, and we are hoping for more in-person celebrations in the fall.”

The College will debut new web pages this semester, with a robust timeline and historic photos, some contributed by alumni.

During January and February, students are participating in a college-wide student video competition with the theme: “My club/my major/my department is the best because…” Students can be as creative as they like in their submissions. Students, faculty and staff will vote for their favorite entries and five winners will be announced in late February during National Engineers Week.

Multiple speaker series focusing on engineering careers, the industry landscape of Silicon Valley, and engineering activism for social justice will be featured February through May.

For late April, the college plans to publish a double issue of its alumni magazine, Engineering at San José State, with a feature from every department.

A student clubs showcase, with breakout rooms, will be a new feature of the virtual Annual Engineering Awards ceremony in May. Other plans for the year include engineering movie nights and special lapel pins for graduating seniors. Visit the College’s website to read about more developments.

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy, San José State’s Hammer Theatre Center to Host Virtual Letter-Writing Event on January 18

MLK Day 2021

The Hammer Theatre Center is hosting an online event to encourage people to write letters to healthcare workers and survivors of COVID-19.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day was originally established in 1986, and 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the day being established as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities—the only federal holiday designated with this distinction. 

According to the National Civil Rights Museum, Dr. King’s impact and contributions include “decisions, monumental actions and steadfast progressions of humanitarian rights that reach far beyond the civil rights movement.” 

To honor his legacy while addressing the destructive impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic, staff members from San José State University’s Hammer Theatre Center invite the public to join Letters to Heal, a virtual gathering to write letters to healthcare workers and patients recovering from COVID-19. Registration for the event, which runs from 1-5 p.m., is available online.

Though this event is inspired by worldwide letter-writing campaigns started during the COVID-19 pandemic, it clearly references King’s 1963  “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote while being imprisoned following non-violent demonstrations for human rights. The historic document argues that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and is considered a landmark text for the Civil Rights movement. 

The goal of this free Zoom activity is to unite the Spartan community in the fight against isolation and the struggle to recover from the virus that has claimed more than 380,000 American lives to date. Data from the Center for Disease Control shows that communities of color have been especially devastated by the pandemic. 

Acts of service looks different during a global pandemic, says Maria Bones, director of Patron Services at the Hammer Theatre Center. While the Hammer Theatre Center would normally be bustling with regular performances, staff have had to convert its space into a recording studio to better capture programming for an online audience. Bones says that the King holiday offers a special opportunity to serve others and promote community engagement.

“We have so few ways to be of service during the pandemic,” said Bones. “While we can’t physically gather, we do have paper and pencils. There are no masks needed when writing from home. This is our call to service.”

Participants are encouraged to drop in to any of the event’s three zoom rooms. In the main room, Hammer staff will offer examples of what other letter-writers have done and encourage participants to come up with their own ideas. A host will answer questions and share an ongoing slide deck. There will be two breakout rooms, one with quiet background music to inspire letter-writers, and another where hosts will provide resources for addressing cards and letters. The Hammer Theater is reaching out to local hospitals and retirement homes to see if they would like to receive letters. The public is invited to participate in Monday’s event by registering online

“This outreach idea came about in our efforts to continue to engage our Hammer volunteer community in a digital capacity, and we are really excited to be able to encourage people who are either isolated due to the pandemic or on the front lines of battling the disease,” said Bones. “How can we give people a chance to gather, inspire each other and be in service?”

Building on Dr. King’s Legacy

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches on Monday, January 18, the nation continues to grapple with issues of systemic racism. These same issues, of course, are the hallmark of Dr. King’s life, legacy and impact on the civil rights movement.

Many universities have looked inward to address and identify institutional racism and are taking immediate steps—as well as developing intermediate and long-term plans—to create permanent organizational change with regard to systemic racism on their campuses. San José State University is now immersed in a systematic and strategic effort in this regard, with a focus on addressing commonly assumed practices, protocols, and knowledge designed to lead to lasting change.

Walt Jacobs, dean of San José State’s College of Social Sciences, says that it is important to recognize King as a three-dimensional leader. To build on his legacy, Jacobs says, Americans must think critically.

“It is more important than ever to remove rose colored glasses,” said Jacobs. “We need to see King clearly. He was not considered a hero in his time by the mainstream. He took complex and controversial stands, such as questioning capitalism. See how the labels used against him are being reused against today’s Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) activists. See that we are not a colorblind society, as protestors are treated differently by security forces depending on their race. See Georgia, where King was born, and where historic Senate races recently concluded. We can still dream, but dreams need coordinated collective action to become reality.”

“Dr. King devoted his life to advancing equality, social justice and economic opportunity, ” said Patience Bryant, director of Black/African-American Equity at San José State. “He understood the importance of addressing racism across multiple areas such as in the health industry, access to living wages, etc., in order for marginalized communities to succeed and grow. This past year has shown us as a nation that we still have significant work to do in this area and we really would like to honor Dr. King.”