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January 20, 2010 > A call for poems about Santa Clara County

A call for poems about Santa Clara County

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell

As April, National Poetry Month, approaches, Santa Clara County's Poet Laureate is asking residents to create celebratory poems about experiences in the county. The Poet Laureate is accepting poem submissions. Thirty poems will be selected and presented at a public reading in April 2010.

"We live in a remarkable place but we know it only when we pay attention to it," said Nils Peterson, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. "Last year, 500 county residents participated in the creation of the first 100-line Santa Clara County Poem. This year, I would like to encourage more of you to join us to create county poems even if you have never tried writing a poem before."

"The poems can be about anything people have observed as they walk about this fascinating county," he added.

"Everyone who lives, works and studies in Santa Clara County is a member of our diverse community," said Ken Yeager, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. "This is a great opportunity for people to celebrate the variety of experiences our county offers."

The Poet Laureate has a few tips for beginners who would like to write a poem:

"Begin by trying to notice things and to catch the look of them, something you've seen in the world. Write a line for each thing that has called out to you and said, "Look at me." If you pay attention, the things of the world are doing that a lot. If you begin each day with the intention of writing a line of poetry, you will be in the world differently. Your eyes will be sharper, your attention deeper. Anyone can do this whether you're in middle school or a retirement community.

Write a line a day for two weeks, you might have an exciting poem. If you have enough lines, you can play with them and see which ones you want to have side by side. Then you can add and's and but's and or's to introduce them.

Make your lines between 9 & 13 syllables. It gives uniformity to the end product, makes an approximation of a blank verse line, the major line-length of poetry in English, and gives a challenge."

The Santa Clara County Poet Laureate post was advocated by Supervisor Liz Kniss and approved by the Board in November 2008. The Poet Laureate's mission is to create a poetic identity for Santa Clara County and showcase the spirit of the people and the county's special qualities through poetry. Nils Peterson was appointed as the Santa Clara County Poet Laureate by the Board of Supervisors in March 2009.

Arts Council Silicon Valley is an independent, non-profit arts agency dedicated to providing funding, advocacy support and marketing services to the region's arts organizations and artists. As the official state/local partner with the California Arts Council, the County of Santa Clara, and the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Council Silicon Valley is the largest non-profit arts council in the state. Since its inception in 1982, the Arts Council has provided nearly $24M in grants and services to local arts and cultural organizations, individual artists, schools and community groups. For more information on Arts Council Silicon Valley, visit


Poems should be no more than 30 lines
Poems may be in a formal pattern or in free verse
Poems should be typed, single-spaced
Poems may not have been previously published
Santa Clara County will retain first publication rights

Participants may submit a maximum of three poems. Each should be displayed on one page. Include a separate cover sheet with the poet's name, mailing address and email.

E-mail submission is NOT acceptable. Please send TWO copies of each entry to:

Arts Council Silicon Valley
4 North Second Street, Suite 500
San Jose, CA 95113-1305

Poems may be submitted now through February 28, 2010. Early submission is appreciated. For more information, visit

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