|Elaine Watt after she was selected as the new Lake County poet laureate on Saturday, April 28, 2012, in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Ed Oswalt.|
LAKEPORT, Calif. – On Saturday afternoon in Lakeport’s Main Street Gallery, home of the Lake County Arts Council, the entire lineage of six Lake County poets laureate read before an enthusiastic audience of 30 literature lovers.
The reading was prelude to the selection of the seventh to serve in the position.
The new winner of the honor is Elaine Watt, whose term becomes official when the Lake County Board of Supervisors passes a resolution to that effect, which is expected soon.
The past poets laureate read on such topics as personal heritage – Carolyn Wing Greenlee is third generation Chinese-American, James BlueWolf derives from Choctaw – to the role of poetry in society, the natural world and even politics.
Then the two finalists read their works, the final step in the application process which includes submitting lists of publications, answering questions about what they hope to accomplish if they win the honor and an interview.
Watt’s reading included “Tough Love From My Muse” and several inspired by her time with the Peace Corps in pre-revolutionary Zaire.
Harold Dull, widely known as the developer of Watsu, a floating version of Shiatsu offered in the warm pools of Harbin Hot Springs and now many other places around the world, read from his collection “Finding Ways to Water, Collected Poems 1955-2007.”
|Poet and Watsu pioneer Harold Dull reads from his recent book of collected poems, “Finding Ways to Water.” Photo by Ed Oswalt.|
His “The Night of the Perseids” was published in the prestigious magazine “Poetry” back in May 1966.
He continued with more recent works about relationships, seaside life, and spreading Watsu around the world.
After private discussion with his colleagues, current Poet Laureate Russell Gonzaga announced, “Both were excellent but we did come to the agreement that Elaine Watt is going to be our next poet laureate.”
Watt gave thanks for the election, the appreciative audience, the readings, and said, “I hope I can do a
“I think you made a good choice,” Harold Dull graciously said.
It all began in 1998 when County Supervisor Louise Talley asked Jim Lyle, already known for his work writing and promoting poetry, to come do a reading at a supervisors' meeting.
When he finished, she said “Just a moment, we have something for you,” and a clerk brought him a document proclaiming him “Lake County Poet Laureate.”
Two years later he read for the supervisors again and resigned the position that had been intended for
life. That has led to the county tradition of two-year terms and the current collection of poets, each of whom has brought a unique approach to the position.
Reflecting on the group gathered Saturday afternoon, Lyle said, “I think it’s worked out rather well.”
With Lyle’s recommendation the supervisors named James BlueWolf his successor. BlueWolf spent somewhat longer at the post, partly due to the development of a selection process that involved input from literary experts outside the county including the poet Caulder Lowe.
|The entire collection of Lake County Poet Laureates, left to right: Jim Lyle (1998-2000), Elaine Watt (2012-2014), Sandra Wade (2006-2008), Harold Dull (2012 finalist), Carolyn Wing Greenlee (2004-2006), Mary McMillan (2008-2010), James Blue Wolf (2000-2003) and Russell Gonzaga (2010-2012) at the selection of the new poet laureate on Saturday, April 28, 2012, in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Ed Oswalt.|
The term has been two years ever since, with the process evolving into its current state with a formal interview and public readings by the finalists, and the final choice made by all former holders of the post.
When Carolyn Wing Greenlee became the third poet laureate in 2004, she was already leading a literary workshop in Lakeport to help residents appreciate the outstanding poets Jim Lyle was bringing into the county for readings. That group was led by Sandra Wade when she became the next selection in 2006, and then by her successor Mary McMillan.
All of these past honorees have been active leading writing workshops, reading at open mike events, clubs and schools, participating in statewide and even international gatherings of poets, or judging competitions. BlueWolf was the featured reader at Santa Rosa"s "First Night" on New Year's Eve 2000.
Most have led regular writing workshops in the county, and McMillan continues to lead the Writers Circle in Lakeport the first Thursday of each month.
|Carolyn Wing Greenlee, James BlueWolf, and Greenlee's guide dog Hedy. Photo by Ed Oswalt.|
Wade developed the “Poetry Out Loud” program in schools and presented literature on KPFZ. Gonzaga leads the Elyseum Writers’ Wordshop every Sunday at Harbin Hot Springs.
At one statewide event, Greenlee met California Poet Laureate Al Young, whose encouragement kept her doing readings despite advancing blindness.
Now she has become a voice for the blind, publishing books on her and others’ experiences with guide dogs. She also is working on an eight-volume, six-generation family history.
Seeing the performance of her successors at events where the state’s other counties also participated, she said “The poet laureate reflects on the county. Oh, I was so proud!”
Many poems by Lake County poets are presented at http://www.lakecountyartscouncil.com/poetryindex.html .
|Outgoing Lake County Poet Laureate Russell Gonzaga announcing Elaine Watt as the new selection on on Saturday, April 28, 2012, in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Ed Oswalt.|