spacer spacer
SBCAC flag Santa Barbara County Arts Commission logo
poet laureate


Paul Willis Installed as Santa Barbara's Poet Laureate at City Council Meeting

Press Release Selection
Press Release Installation

Day Job Poem Link

April Poetry Events

Local poet and Westmont professor Paul Willis was installed as Santa Barbara’s Poet Laureate at the April 12th City Council meeting. The occasion was celebrated with the reading of a Proclamation from the Mayor recognizing the contributions and accomplishments of Mr. Willis and April as National Poetry Month in Santa Barbara. 

Past Poet Laureates, Barry Spacks and Perie Longo made remarks praising Willis for his talent and contributions to the literary community. Ms. Longo read a poem by outgoing Poet Laureate David Starkey who is currently in Rome.

After being presented with a ceremonial crown of mock laurel leaves by Longo and Spacks, Professor Willis recited the following poem for the occasion.

The City of Santa Barbara established a position of Poet Laureate in 2005 in order to direct proper attention and honor to the spoken word by utilizing poetry to celebrate and elevate community events.  Since the establishment of the position the City has been remarkably fortunate of have three exceptional Emeritus Poet Laureates—Barry Spacks, Perie Longo and David Starkey.

The entire month of Apri was filled with a myriad of readings and events throughout the City celebrating all things poetic. A listing of events can be found at

The City of Santa Barbara's Poet Laureate for 2009 - 2010 is David Starkey.

David Starkey directs the creative writing program at Santa Barbara City College. Among his poetry collections are Starkey's Book of States (Boson Books, 2007), Adventures of the Minor Poet (Artamo Press, 2007), Ways of Being Dead: New and Selected Poems (Artamo, 2006), David Starkey's Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2002) and Fear of Everything, winner of Palanquin Press's Spring 2000 chapbook contest. A Few Things You Should Know about the Weasel will be published by the Canadian press Biblioasis in 2010. In addition, over the past twenty years he has published more than 400 poems in literary journals such as American Scholar, Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cutbank, Faultline, Greensboro Review, The Journal, Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, Nebraska Review, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, Poetry East, South Dakota Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Sycamore Review, Texas Review, and Wormwood Review. He has also written two textbooks: Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008) and Poetry Writing: Theme and Variations (McGraw-Hill, 1999). With Paul Willis, he co-edited In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare (Iowa, 2005), and he is the editor of Living Blue in the Red States (Nebraska, 2007). Keywords in Creative Writing, which he co-authored with the late Wendy Bishop, was published in 2006 by Utah State University Press.

Join Creative Community host David Starkey as he embarks on a poetic adventure to write about some of Santa Barbara's most interesting locations. Taped on 6.21.10

Santa Barbara's Poet Laureate Writes “Video Poems” About Santa Barbara

 Oct. 1, 2010, Santa Barbara, California.  In May of 2010, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate David Starkey and the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission “challenged” area citizens to suggest poem topics that would focus on local people, places, things or events.  Starkey wrote 11 poems in response to the more than 50 challenges he received, and this past summer he set out with Channel 21 filmmakers Jesus Estrada and Josh Figatner to turn each poem into a video.

The result is Poems for Santa Barbara, a half-hour program currently airing on Channel 21 and linked from Arts Commission’s Website.  The subject of the poems ranges from the recent fires to cutbacks at the public library, from Cold Spring Bridge to the Mission City Brawlin’ Betties roller derby team, from opera at the Granada to day laborers lined up along “La Barda.”  Each video is followed by a brief explanation from Starkey of how the poem came to be written.

Dave Bonta of the “Moving Poems” Website calls Poems for Santa Barbara “overall…one of the best made-for-TV poetry programs I’ve seen, not excluding the interviews and animations produced by the BBC.”

For complete air dates on Cox Cable Channel 21, go to

The Difference between Poets and Politicians

I, who have voted in every election
since turning eighteen, honor the work
of public servants, your devotion
to the larger cause, your willingness
to sit through meetings that might send me
screaming from the room. Poets,
you understand, are different. We see
a tree and rather than environment
or public park, think willow
or coral or flowering pear.
To us, fire evokes metaphors
as soon as terror, the mountains
at dusk are crepuscular,
the ocean is a vasty deep.
For you, problems are opportunities
for solutions; for us, they are occasions
for elegies and light verse. Nothing
moves poets like ambiguity:
upright Portia’s sudden cruelty,
the pathos we feel for Shylock,
though he insisted on his pound of flesh.
We swim in shades of gray and green
and aquamarine. Therefore, I receive
these laurels humbly, realizing the most
that I can likely do on your behalf is mark
a moment on the calendar, then order
the Number Six lunch special at Pepé’s,
breathe in the scent of blooming jasmine,
and chant the euphonious names—
Anacapa, de la Vina, Camino
Manadero—of our lovely city’s streets....

David Starkey reads Inaugural Poem at his installation at City Hall on April 7, 2009.

Every 2 years the City of Santa Barbara seeks nominations for the position of Santa Barbara Poet Laureate.  The person selected shall seek to advance awareness of and appreciation for literary arts and humanities within the greater Santa Barbara community.  As both a local resident and a distinguished poet, the Poet Laureate shall represent and celebrate the diversity and history of Santa Barbara.  As a spokesperson for the City’s literary community, the Poet Laureate shall endeavor to promote the artistic achievements of the City of Santa Barbara and shall actively participate in ceremonial, educational, and cultural activities in the community at various times throughout his or her term of service.

The Poet Laureate for the City of Santa Barbara is an honorary position.  The individual selected serves one two-year term, commencing in April.  Nearing the end of the Poet Laureate’s term and prior to initiating the nomination process, the Poet Laureate Review Committee may extend an invitation to the sitting Poet Laureate to serve a second consecutive term, based on his or her performance.

For more information about the Poet Laureate position please see the Poet Laureate Guidelines and Nomination Form. A poet Laureate has been selected for the 2009 and 2010 term, so these documents are for reference only.
spacer PaulWillis
Paul Willis, Poet Laureate, City of Santa Barbara
David Starkey Crowned City’s New Poet Laureate
The director of SBCC's creative writing program hopes to keep literary arts in the public eye.
By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | Published on 04.29.2009
article link

Poetry Month listing


David Starkey poet laureate of the City of Santa BarbaraDavid Starkey, Former Poet Laureate, City of Santa Barbara

These documents are for reference about the position for the 2010-2011 poet laureate
2010 Guidelines & Nomination Form
  ©2009 Santa Barbara County Arts Commission     home | about | exhibitions | grants | public meetings | press | contact | site index