Navigate Up
Menu + Public Affairs
Home > News Releases

The Last Call of the County’s First Poet Laureate

Residents Encouraged to Write “Haiku-ish” Poems during January

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—This month, the Santa Clara County’s Poet Laureate Nils Peterson is inviting county residents to engage in poetry by writing “haiku-ish” poems about what they observe day to day in the county. The Poet Laureate will select the best poems and post them online. This will be the last call from the County’s first Poet Laureate who was appointed in March 2009 and will finish his term in March 2011.

“In effect, we will be creating a new form, borrowing from Haiku,” said Peterson. “The haiku has certain formal requirements for line length. I’m asking area residents for ‘haiku-ish’ poems, a relaxed, casual approach to haiku.”

The Poet Laureate’s requirements for the “haiku-ish” poems include: three lines; up to 17 syllables; topics be related to Santa Clara County.

Peterson offers the following examples of relaxed “haiku-ish” poems, with or without titles:

At the Coffee Shop
muted trumpet playing
molto espressivo
over dark coffee

A Modern Church
No angels, no saints.
The stained glass – abstract,
yet light passes through, blesses.

December, Santa Clara County
A narcissus blooms.

Examples without titles:

on the reservoir
immense water beetles.
No, a racing of shells.

The boy,
slightly smaller than his backpack
manfully sets off for school.

bed. dark morning. rain.
heater comes on. world waits.
blankets whisper, not now.

Poets may use different line breaks to yield different effect:

dark morning. rain. heater comes on. world waits. blankets whisper,
not now.

“Our esteemed inaugural Poet Laureate has created a number of great opportunities to engage the community in both enjoying poetry and creating a poetic identity for Santa Clara County,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss, District 5, champion of the County’s Poet Laureate program. “This casual haiku project will contribute to the body of poetry available for all of us to enjoy.”

Peterson said traditional haiku fit the requirements and are welcome, but experiments are welcome too.

Here is how you can participate: Submit no more than 3 poems for consideration by the February 7, 2011 deadline to

Those whose poems are selected will be acknowledged at an event in March.

About Haiku
Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, most commonly consisting of 17 syllables, in three phrases of five, seven and five syllables respectively. (The new Santa Clara county form will omit the specification of the number of syllables per line.) Haiku is written in meaningful and compact form and language to “paint” an image in the reader’s mind. Haiku does not rhyme.

In Japanese, haikus are traditionally printed in a single vertical line and tend to take aspects of the natural world as the subject matter, while haikus in English often appear in three lines and deal with nature, feelings and experiences.

Previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century.

About the Santa Clara County Poet Laureate
The Santa Clara County Poet Laureate post was advocated by Supervisor Liz Kniss and approved by the Board in November 2008. The mission of the Poet Laureate is to create a poetic identity for Santa Clara County, and showcase the spirit of the people and the special qualities of the county through poetry. The Poet Laureate is an honorary post. Nils Peterson was appointed as the Santa Clara County Poet Laureate by the Board of Supervisors in March 2009. The County of Santa Clara, in partnership with Arts Council Silicon Valley, started a search for the next Poet Laureate in November 2010 and is currently reviewing applications.

About Arts Council Silicon Valley
Arts Council Silicon Valley is an independent, nonprofit arts agency dedicated to providing funding, advocacy support, and marketing services to the region’s arts organizations and artists. As the official state/local partner with the California Arts Council, the County of Santa Clara, and the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Council Silicon Valley is the largest nonprofit arts council in the state. Since its inception in 1982, the Arts Council has provided over $25 million in grants and services to local arts and cultural organizations, individual artists, schools, and community groups. For more information on Arts Council Silicon Valley go to:

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119; Anna Weldon, Director of Communications, Arts Council Silicon Valley (408) 998-2787, ext. 217
Posted: January 7, 2011