Yes it’s true. As of February 23, 2017, I am, by proclamation of the City Council of Corpus Christi, the poet laureate of Corpus Christi. Ever since that night, I get asked a few of questions fairly often.
The first question is how did that happen? Basically, there is a group of poets in the Corpus area who got to know each through an open mic series that has been held at Del Mar College. This group of poets banded together and decided to host a poetry festival in Corpus. The poetry festival was going to have a big kick off night, and someone thought since we didn’t have enough money for a keynote reading that if we had a poet laureate maybe it would add interest to the event. I’m not really sure because I missed that meeting. My fellow Corpus poets assure me that my missing the meeting isn’t the only reason I became the first poet of Corpus Christi, but it didn’t hurt. I have to say the group of poets included Juan Perez, Tom Murphy, Javier Villarreal, Robin Carstensen, Odilia Rodriguez, Malia Perez, Lou Ella Hickman, Stefan Sencerz, and I’m not sure who else might have been there that night. The thing is anyone of these fine writers could have been worthy of being honored, so no matter how much I try to poo-poo the nod, because the honor comes from such talented writers and good friends, the title has meant quite a bit to me.
Don’t you live in Sinton? Yeah, I do, but Sinton is a much harder poetry market to crack. Even though I say this in a tongue-in-cheek manner check out the Dictionary of Literary Biography someday, and you’ll find a long article on the poet Ronnie Burke who was actually born and raised in Sinton. Not that many people in town seem to remember him. Burke wrote mainly in Spanish and his poetry was surrealistic and he may be more famous as an AIDS activist, but he’s in the DLB and that’s high cotton. Anyway, I digress. All the poetry events I have hosted over the years have been in Corpus at Del Mar College where I have worked as a librarian for the past 20 years. In the proclamation it says I initiated the idea for having a poetry festival in Corpus. If saying, maybe we should start a poetry festival in Corpus someday counts then this is true, but so many people worked to get the festival off the ground, I feel a little swarthy taking credit for that.
So what does a poet Laureate do? Great question. I’m not sure I’ve figured that one out. Even before I was poet laureate, I was asked fairly often by local teachers to go to area classrooms and share poetry. I often ask these teachers if they have seen my poetry? My stuff isn’t exactly G rated. But we normally find a poem or two we can use for a short talk. But really I have no idea what the duties are which is probably a very good thing.
How much does a poet laureate get paid? Guy Clarke said it best, “There ain’t no money in poetry, and that’s what keeps the poet (laureate) free…”
When will there be a second poet laureate of Corpus Christi?It seems attendance at our festival meetings has really picked up, but someday someone is going to absent. Until then I’m happy and honored to play along.