WATSONVILLE—When Alicia Martinez first took on the position of Interim Library Director for the Watsonville Public Library, bringing a Poet Laureate Program to the city was one of her goals.
On Tuesday those plans got underway: the library launched a nomination period, which will close on Sept. 1, for Watsonville’s first-ever poet laureate.
A poet laureate is an individual officially appointed by a government or other institution who is expected to write and recite poems for various events and occasions. Poet laureates represent and are heavily involved in their communities, going out to read at schools, city council meetings and more.
Martinez, who officially became director last month, said that the library’s board of trustees had always wanted to establish the library as the sponsor of such a program. Victoria Bañales, a Trustee from District 5 initiated the idea and is now the Chair of the Poet Laureate Committee.
“We started from ground zero, created guidelines and a timeline,” she said. “It’s worked out, and it’s very exciting … This will be the first time in the history of this city that we will have a poet laureate.”
Watsonville’s poet laureate will serve for two years and receive a $2,000 stipend. Nominations are open to residents ages 18 and over. They must be a current resident of Watsonville/Freedom who has lived in the city for no less than one year, and will continue to live in the city throughout the appointment.
Nominees must have achieved a certain level of recognition for their writing, such as having a published book or demonstrated literary excellence.
Click here for a full list of requirements.
The chosen poet will be announced in December. The library is also looking for three committee members who will be in charge of the selection process.
A Youth Poet Laureate Program, for students under 18, is also in the works.
The program is one of many new and returning projects of the library—including other poetry events. Its bi-monthly poetry reading series (currently virtual) invites poets from all over California to read and discuss their work. And the library’s 2021 Poetry Contest has extended its deadline for submissions to June 30.
In addition, the Summer Reading program returns Monday, and the library is also in the midst of starting up the Book to Action initiative with Santa Cruz Public Libraries and other organizations. And on Friday, the city will finally reopen its Freedom branch after a year of being closed due to the pandemic.
Martinez said that as director, she is looking to revitalize the library and make it a more equitable, inclusive place. And she hopes the new Poet Laureate Program will help put Watsonville “on the map.”
“We’re a little city. Everyone knows where Santa Cruz is, everyone knows Monterey … we’re stuck here in the middle,” she said. “I want us to be recognized for having talented individuals.”