CSUMB Professor Named Monterey County’s First Poet Laureate

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Daniel B. Summerhill is a published poet, performance artist, and Adjunct Professor of Poetry, Social Action, and Composition at CSUMB. Starting Jan. 12, he can add another title to that list: Monterey County Poet Laureate.

In fact, he will be the very first person designated as such.

“It’s a bit surreal, I have to admit,” Summerhill said. “But immediately after the surreal, it’s an extreme honor.”

On Wednesday, January 12, the Monterey County Arts Council announced the new role, along with plans to develop poetry in the community.

The towns of Pacific Grove and Salinas have had poet laureates, but the idea of ​​the county having one was inspired by Amanda Gorman’s poetry recitation during President Biden’s inauguration.

“I knew then it was time to create a Poet Laureate program for our county,” said Jacquie Atchison, Executive Director of the Arts Council.

They put out a call for entries and received “stellar entries” which were reviewed by Arnold Chavez, James Golden, Ben Heinrich, Ernesto Lizaola and Tamara Hovhannisyan.

Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez supported and presented the idea to the full board, which voted on it in a resolution.

This resolution states that the tenure of the position will be for two years beginning in 2022, during which Summerhill is charged with uplifting, celebrating and championing poetry and the literary arts among county residents.

“I now have a specific duty to the county, to the people, to leverage language as a means of social action, community building and truth,” Summerhill continued. “The poet June Jordan says that a poet is someone free. I intend to use poetry in the service of freedom. To unearth the songs that people already have in their stomachs.

This includes starting a sustainable and welcoming open mic, hosting workshops, visiting high schools, public readings, inspiring the next generation of poets, spotlighting the county’s cultural heritage and leveraging his role at CSUMB to connect with the community.

“The biggest project I plan to tackle is an anthology that represents county people through their poetic lens,” Summerhill said. “The idea is to defend orality at the same time as the page, to defend the language of the people. Monterey County is rich and full of history and culture, and my goal is to pass the microphone on to all those people who want to share their stories through this anthology.

Debra Busman, a professor of creative writing and social action, said she was delighted with the selection and called Summerhill a champion of poetry.

“Daniel has so beautifully continued the work of CSUMB Poets Emeritus Francis Payne Adler and Diana Garcia,” she said. “His leadership of our creative writing and social action program, and his support of youth voice and community literacy, embodies the best aspirations of our university’s vision.”

To learn more about Daniel Summerhill, visit his website.

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