Alameda’s Poet Laureates Are People Poetic Partners
Mayor of Alameda presenting Cathy Dana as the Poet Laureate
Alameda has come to be known as a city that stands apart, and not just because it’s an island. For instance, when it came time to select a new poet laureate after Julia Park Tracey’s appointment ended, the city’s Poet Laureate Selection Committee had a difficult time deciding between the top two candidates, Cathy Dana and Gene Kahane, so it named them both.
“Appointing both Mr. Kahane and Ms. Dana brings a wonderful breadth of experience and passion for the written word,” library director and Poet Laureate Selection Committee staff member Jane Chisaki said in a statement for the city of Alameda in July.
The new poet laureates are equally thrilled about the partnership, one that Kahane calls a “couplet.”
“Though unusual, I’m overjoyed at sharing the poet laureate title with Cathy Dana,” Kahane said. “We’ve met several times, love poetry, are both teachers, have ambitious plans to help foster a love of language, and both bike a lot around town.”
Dana agreed that sharing the post is unusual but exciting. “I love sharing the post with Gene,” she said. “I think two heads are better than one, and we can spark each other, build with each other. We each have organizations that we are a part of, and that gives us resources to create events and programs; together we can reach out even further than we already do.”
Dana’s relationship with poetry has been strong since her mother read to her from Dr. Seuss as a child, but it was in 2003 that she met Mary Rudge, Alameda’s first poet laureate, and the Alameda Island Poets. Dana is president of the organization.
“When I met Mary Rudge, she was having a poetry contest, and the theme was Alameda. I was excited, because I had poems about the Alameda beach. Those poems are now in the Alameda-themed poem anthology.”
Dana moved to Alameda in 1985 and married Alameda-born Jim Gordon in 1987. Their son, Max, attended school at the Alameda Community Learning Center, where Dana signed on to teach creative writing to sixth-graders. Today, she continues to teach that class, as well as a creative writing class for high schoolers. Dana initiated ACLC’s poet laureate program and the Mighty Pens teen poetry group. Her first poetry book, My Dad Believed in Love, was published in 2015 by Sugartown Publishing.
“I see the creative spirit in each of us as sometimes shy, a bit delicate, and vulnerable to criticism. It is so important to nurture it, so I see myself as a guardian of the creative spirit, and my mission is to bring the joy, the beauty, the wisdom, the spirit of inquiry of poetry to Alamedans of all ages, all walks of life.”
Dana would like to see a poet laureate program at every high school and would like to bring poetry reading, appreciation, and writing to Mastick and other senior centers.
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