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First County Poem - A Family Album 2009

What shall we call our creation?
A poem doesn’t seem quite right, though clearly there is poetry in it. I think of it as a collage, a gathering of verbal snapshots, an album of the Santa Clara County family, a time capsule (wouldn’t it be great to have a similar gathering from twenty-five years ago, fifty?). Yes, I think we’ll call the whole piece A Family Album, Santa Clara County, 2009.

I’ve arranged the lines in groupings according to subject matter to make the reading easier. The order within the groupings is mostly random. The lines were chosen from the roughly 500 submitted. The authors are listed at the bottom of each section in the order of their appearance.

To be selected, the lines had to be between 9 and 13 syllables long. There are many reasons for this, the first, and most obvious, is that it gives a uniformity to the end product. Everyone gets equal time. It makes an approximation of a blank verse line, the major line length of poetry in English. It also gives a challenge. One has to work at it. One learns that to say something is beautiful is to use up three syllables which one could use to show its beauty. Also, it’s not too forbidding. I don’t think I would have gotten as many submissions if I had asked for a line of iambic pentameter.

You’ll find joy and sadness here, exuberance and wistfulness, more than a little seasoning of anger. Yet, what surprised me a little is how much we still think of our county as beautiful. It made me look around and see it still is.

There are many voices in this gathering, the young, the old, the ages in between. It is a chorus of many cultures.

Lastly, there were many good lines that had to be left out. Some were very close in subject matter and I had to choose one over another. Others just didn’t seem to find a comfortable place as the album grew. We all have boxes of pictures that never got put in the book that are as good as the ones that did. Some lines had a syllable or more too many. I hasten to add, there will be more chances to speak about this place and our time in it.

Thanks to all of you who were interested in this project and particularly those who were interested enough to submit.

Nils Peterson
Poet Laureate
Santa Clara County