By Chris Treadway
Saturday, April 21st, 2012 at 11:40 pm in Contra Costa County.
You can meet the first-ever Richmond poet laureate on Tuesday at City Hall.
Here is the full text of the announcement:
Richmond poet Dwayne Parish will be named the City of Richmond’s inaugural Poet Laureate Tuesday, April 24, at the Richmond City Council meeting at 6:30 pm. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin will read the proclamation installing Parish in the new position for a period of two years, from April 2012 through April 2014. Parish will read a new poem written especially for the occasion.
“The Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month in 1996,” explains Richmond Arts and Culture Manager Michele Seville, “and we have been inspired by other Bay Area cities’ emphasis on placing poetry prominently in the life of a city, and helping to give voice to its citizens. In addition, the success of our Richmond Writes! poetry contests of the last two years have spurred us to make poetry an ongoing part of official civic life in Richmond. Once the decision was made to create this post, Dwayne Parish was the first candidate who came to mind.”
Parish, 55, a Richmond resident for the last ten years, was born on Travis Air Force Base and grew up in Vallejo. He started writing poetry shortly after learning his ABCs in grade school. “I’ve always been a poet,” says Parish. “I think in rhymes.” Seven years ago, he attended a California Lawyers for the Arts event in San Francisco and met a young poet there “who broke me open. I’ve written hundreds of poems since.”
Parish’s preferred style is acrostic writing (writing the title down the side with each letter beginning a sentence), taught to him by his father.
At the time he moved to Richmond, Parish says, “I had no idea I could use my art to expand awareness and inspire support for worthy causes. I feel like a seed that found the right soil and sun.” Serving as a Richmond Arts & Culture Commissioner from 2006 to 2010, Parish had the opportunity to write poems for specific occasions and to read his work in schools and other public forums.
His duties as Poet Laureate will similarly call on him to visit schools and attend city, library, and other public functions, and to write a poem about Richmond that will be placed in a notebook to be available at the library. His first official duty is the new poem that he will read Tuesday evening at the ceremony marking the beginning of his two-year term.
The position carries an annual stipend of $1000. In the future, a poet laureate committee appointed by the Arts & Culture Commission will be responsible for selecting a poet laureate for a two-year term and for reporting annually to the Commission on the progress of the Poet Laureate Program.
“I’m deeply honored to have been selected for the position,” says Parish, “which seems to me to be yet another expression of Richmond’s renaissance. I look forward to finding and sharing the words.” •