Category Archives: On Poetry

This just in: New Poet Laureate!

Santa Clara County poet laureateDavid Perez Named Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—Today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors appointed David Perez to the honorary post of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate for a two year term (January 14, 2014 – December 21, 2015).  Perez was recommended to the Board following the call for applications, and a two step review process organized by the County and Silicon Valley Creates.

“David Perez brings a wealth of creative experience to the post of PoetLaureate,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith.  “He will do a fine job in helping to make poetry accessible to the community.”
    Perez is a poet, writer and educator. He is a professor of English at Ohlone College and has toured throughout the United States and Canada to give readings and book signings. He is the author of Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse under Write Bloody Publishing, and his poem Surgir appears on the San Jose Mexican Heritage Plaza Founder’s Plaque.
    “I’d like to express my gratitude to the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and to Silicon Valley Creates for establishing the position of Poet Laureate. They have opened new opportunities to create and celebrate poetry,” said Perez. “I intend to help Santa Clara County’s poetic voices become more visible to the communities in which they belong in the hopes that poetry’s ability to help us connect, transform and heal might be more widely accessible.”
   In July 2012, Perez was voted “Best Author in the Bay Area” in the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s annual readers’ poll. He also received the Arts Council Silicon Valley Fellowship for Literary Art in April 2011 for his contribution to empowering Silicon Valley communities through the arts.
   “David Perez represents the remarkable energy, diversity and creativity of our region through his power of language,” said Connie Martinez, CEO of Silicon Valley Creates. “I look forward to experiencing his genuine ability to bring poetry to life for audiences of all kinds as our next Poet Laureate.”
   Perez will take the two-year post in January 2014.  He is the third poet laureate to be appointed by the County of Santa Clara. Nils Peterson was the County’s first Poet Laureate (2009-2011), and Sally Ashton served as the second Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County (2011-2013).
     Perez holds a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature from University of California, Santa Cruz.

And . . .Here I am with the new “PL” at the San Jose Museum of Art where he’ll be hosting this year’s Poetry Invitational on April 17th. Don’t miss it. This reading of poems based on current museum exhibits was launched by first Poet Laureate, Nils Peterson. It’s a fabulous tradition and is sure to be again this year.


Congratulations, David!

I’ll be making one last post here before handing off the blog to David so stay tuned, tell your friends, and follow that blog!

Yours in poetry~

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate




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This just in: Laureate News

One of these days the post will say “new poet laureate” instead of “poet laureate’s news,” (hint: tomorrow’s County Board of Supervisors’ meeting: 9am!!), but for now, there’s this gem.

Those of you who contributed to Nils’ Peterson’s “Family Album” poem during his term as the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County will be interested to note that the poem has been put in video form. Here, I’ll let you read the rest, below.

And, don’t forget next Tuesday’s event at Montalvo. Details can be found here.

OFF-THE-PAGE_2-6-14See you “there.” 😉

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate


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And then there are: Pears

Here’s something for your 2014 calendar. Check out the Montalvo Arts Center website for full event details, but I’ll be reading with this fabulous lineup and would love to see you there:

An Evening of Music and Poetry

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 6:30 p.m. 9 p.m.

Enjoy a night of music and poetry in the historic Villa! 

The evening will include a performance by newly formed Ensemble San Francisco, poetry readings by Jeffrey Levine, poet and founder of Tupelo Press, and Sally Ashton, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate (2011-2013) and Lucas Artists Literary Fellow. Books and CDs will be available for sale. The evening begins with a small reception and cash bar.

TICKET PRICES : General: $15 | Students w/ID: $7*

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate


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It’s a holiday reading: Well whoop-tee-do!



Thursday, December 19, 2013, 7:00pm
Featured Reader: Nils Peterson
with Sally Ashton, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, and Dennis Richardson

Nils Peterson, author of numerous books of poetry and former Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County, will host a Christmas Reading featuring The 2nd Drama Quartet in a reading of A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, with Sally Ashton, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Dennis Richardson and Good St. Nils himself.

Open Mic reading to follow
Willow Glen Library
1157 Minnesota Avenue, San José, CA, 95125
(408) 808-3045 or (408) 266-1361
Free and open to the public

Nils Peterson is Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University where he taught in the English and Humanities Departments. He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles on subjects as varying as golf and Shakespeare. A chapbook of poems entitled Here Is No Ordinary Rejoicing was published by No Deadlines Press, a collection of poems entitled The Comedy of Desire with an introduction by Robert Bly was published by the Blue Sofa Press, and a collection of poems entitled Driving a Herd of Moose to Durango appeared in 2005. He was nominated for a 2005 Pushcart Prize. His most recent book of poetry came out in 2011, published by Poetry Center San Jose.

If you’re looking for a last-minute gift idea, I will be bringing copies of Invention:Poems that Celebrate Who We Are and What We Do in Silicon Valley, the anthology of contributors to Poetry on the Move for your purchasing pleasure. Check out the link, above for further detail. They will be offered at a special holiday price of $15 each.


I hope to see you there.

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

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Want to become a better poet?

It’s not just reading, writing, and workshops that make a difference. After working with the DMQ Review as an editor for the past 10 years, I have to say that the experience of reading poetry submissions and bringing them together in a publication is another invaluable tool for your poet’s toolbox. The following announcement sounds like a terrific opportunity for anyone who can attend; online options available. Yes, it’s a class offered through De Anza, but YES it’s a chance to work closely with master poet Ken Weisner. You gain  invaluable experience and course units. It’s not that big of a deal to enroll. Check it out:

 Attention poets, writers, editors, dreamers—beginning or advanced!  Students needed for our EWRT 65 De Anza class to help edit the 2014 national edition of Red Wheelbarrow. Sign up as soon as Monday, December 18th to ensure the program isn’t canceled. Tell your students and friends. Much of the course is online where we post and discuss submissions of writers from all around the country, but we also meet Monday afternoons at 4:00 on campus to discuss the better material further and vote. Some “all online” participation options; contact instructor Ken Weisner at for information about that. Students focus on whatever they wish — choose your specialty.  Discuss great fresh new works of literature, get credit for it— and no tests, quizzes or papers. What could be better than that? And then we make a book together. Lots of opportunity to learn about writing, editing, book design, and publishing in this class. Contact Ken with further questions.

More news you can use coming soon~

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate (2011-2013)

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Workshop announcement: Lisbon, Portugal July 2014


Here I am mixing it up in Lisbon with none other than Fernando Pessoa himself back in 2011 when I led a workshop there with Disquiet International Literary Program. Fernando and I were discussing the problem of heteronyms while awaiting our afternoon coffee.

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be returning to Lisbon (and Fernando!) this summer to teach another workshop and am looking for writers who might be interested in an international literary experience, one you will never forget. That’s not because of the workshop I’m leading, but because of this fantastic program and group of writers. Disquiet offers a rich literary and cultural experience. You will fall in love with Lisbon.

I can once again offer a tuition discount to people who want to work with me, so do contact me for details at

In the meantime I’m mulling over a heteronym. It feels about time for a new me.

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

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Poet Laureate #3: Deadline approaching!

Anyone considering applying to be the next Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, get to it! The deadline, September 30th, approacheth. Find full details in the August 2 post, below, including how to contact me or the first Poet Laureate, Nils Peterson, for general questions.

If you have specific questions regarding the application process, please contact the folks at Arts Council Silicon Valley, now known as Silicon Valley Creates! I’ve been assured that someone named Audrey will reply to your queries as soon as possible. Use this email.

Nils and I are looking forward to the next laureate appointment to carry on the torch for poetry in Silicon Valley. We’re rooting for you.

AND, if Poet Laureate is a bit rich for your tastes, here’s another opportunity. Silicon Valley Creates is accepting applications for a variety of Artist Laureates including Emerging Artist. (scroll down). Scrolling down further you will see that they are holding a series of workshops for those interested in applying. Get busy! What are you waiting for?

Let’s keep literature and the arts thriving in Silicon Valley together. What a cool place to live. Thanks for being out there.

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

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Call for applications: Santa Clara County Poet Laureate


Applications for the next Santa Clara County Poet Laureate are now being accepted online or by US mail through September 30th. The application process found there might show last year’s timeline, but if you scroll down, to the application link, all is in good shape. Just gather your info and submit.

If this position isn’t for you, but you know a poet who lives within Santa Clara County, who has had some success getting poems published, and who has some record of engaging with the public, please encourage them to apply.

If you think this is a way you would like to promote poetry some time in the future, keep writing, get into a workshop or writing group, and get involved in a local poetry organization so that you get a feel for working with the public.

And, make sure you show up for the next Laureate’s events! They need your support and you will have even a better sense of what’s involved in this role as an advocate for poetry and the arts.

It’s a big county; there should be a lot of poets out there with a desire to serve in the public sphere. If you have questions about what it means to be poet laureate, you may contact either the first SCCo Poet Laureate, Nils Peterson, or me, Sally Ashton, by email, listed below. You may also review my schedule  from the past two years, above, to better understand the variety of opportunities to connect with people in the county around poetry you might experience.

If this is something you feel you can do: Apply!

If you feel this is an important role and know someone who would be great: Encourage them to apply!

For specific questions regarding the position, contact one of us.

Nils Peterson, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate (2009-2011)
Sally Ashton, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate (2011-2013)

Pass it on and thanks for your help.

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

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Five Poets Laureate: 500 Words

ReleaseReading5Local Inhabitants, (L-R) Nils Peterson, Erica Goss, Parthenia M.
Hicks, Dave Denny, Sally Ashton. Photo courtesy Gwen Mitchell.

Here we are, smirky and perky after our June 15th release reading of Local Habitations, an anthology of poems of the Poets Laureate from Santa Clara County to date.

As part of our release celebration, each poet laureate was asked to write a poem of exactly 100 words, title included, using the theme, “Local Habitations.” None of us knew what the others wrote. After our individual readings we came up front, drew numbers, and read our contributions in that order as one single poem.

What follows is the text, as read, of our collaboration. Strange how it seems to come together as an intentional whole! In case you missed our reading, we do hope to read together again in the near future, so stay tuned. If you attended, we invite your comments below.

Local Habitations

Jacaranda is the tree for us, twice-blooming
in our region, a bold and fragrant purple in spring,
a paler but somehow richer blue in autumn.

Turn any corner in our neighborhood and see them
lined along the parkway in a conspiracy of beauty.
So we, in our youth, were given to the brave pose

or the startling proclamation. And now we have,
how shall I say it, deepened, taken on a subtle
complexity we could not in spring have imagined.

How strange and lovely to find ourselves in
this changing light. We pull the car over to the curb
to gawk in silence. The tree for us is Jacaranda.            


They say we have no seasons
in California. Fall, for instance,

fails to please.
They want our trees

decked out
in garish tones

and frost to grow
on pumpkins like mold

on bread. Perhaps it seems
that summer will never end

as heat swells the Pacific
and small clouds collect

in the uncertain sky.
The land, a little shabby

from summer’s long
dormancy, will never look

like the soft green hills they
left, thinking

that they wanted this much sun.
Now it’s old news

and they long to know
that change is coming

impatient to dig out
their woolen sweaters.


Local Habitations

The old tree in Willow Glen
cracks across the sky
the sound so loud and close
everyone looks up
but no one moves

It takes a visitor
a quiet shy voice
to speak the word

Branches we love to call arms
always heavier than we think
Fall everywhere

Reach for people, dogs
bits of food, benches
corners of blankets
and finally rest
dangling like slings between cars and high wires

Why not now? She thinks.
Now, when the people are so close
And the sky is so blue
And a lovely visitor
With a soft voice
Has recognized me?


A Small Bang.

Syllables pour into a hundred word universe shocked as the first hydrogen atoms. Each has a music. They circle, join, suddenly – word-sounds – “Crew went the curlew as it flew in a curlicue.” They rhyme. “Ache did,” pairs with “naked.” They gather into galaxies, “He did not know who he was until she taught him desire, then he did not know who he was,” until here, in Cupertino, at the end of the Dictionary of the Milky Way, we dangle from a participle, aware of dark matter, what has not yet been seen, so not yet said.



My grandfather would have sized up this crowd with two words: local yokels.

When a stranger moves to town we call him immigrant.

If we move to a foreign country we call ourselves ex-pats instead.

To travel from one place to another we lock our houses first.

To dream, the mind throws the doors open wide.

Either way we leave what we know behind.

To know ourselves better we’ve unlocked the genome.

We discover we’re related to everyone everywhere.

We are also made of star stuff blown from the corners of the cosmos.

Therefore wherever we wander, we’re home.

# # #

1.  including title, Dave Denny, Current Cupertino Poet Laureate
2. Erica Goss
, Current Los Gatos Poet Laureate
3. Parthenia M. Hicks
, First Los Gatos Poet Laureate
4. Nils Peterson
, First Santa Clara County Poet Laureate
5. Sally Ashton, Second Santa Clara County Poet Laureate


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Release reading: Local Habitations

Next Saturday June 15, 3pm
Celebrating a new anthology of Poets Laureate past and present
of the Santa Clara County


Please join host David Denny, and Nils Peterson, Parthenia M. Hicks, Erica Goss, and me as we celebrate the release of Local Habitations with a reading at Cupertino Community Hall, 10350 Torre Avenue at 3pm. Festivities include all 5 laureates reading from the new collection, live music, refreshments, and (drum roll) a surprise collaboration between all five of us.

Each of us is writing a separate “Local Habitions” poem for the occasion. Each poem is to be exactly 100 words–no more, no less. None of us know what the others are writing beyond that. Come cheer us on this Saturday as we unveil it all. Well the usual amount at least.

Sponsored by

The City of Cupertino, Cupertino Library Commission,
Friends of the Cupertino Library and the Library Foundation,
and Poetry Center San Jose.

Hope to see you there~

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Emerita


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