The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors has appointed Arlene Biala to the honorary post of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate for a two-year term ending Dec. 31, 2017. Biala was recommended to the Board following the call for applications, and a two-step review process organized by the County and Silicon Valley Creates. The Poet Laureate's role is to elevate Santa Clara County residents' awareness of poetry, and to help celebrate the literary arts.
The County issued a call for applications on August 3, 2015. The final deadline for applications was September 30, 2015. A Peer Review Panel reviewed applications and rated candidates based on artistic merit, commitment to the community, and alignment of the proposed project with the Poet Laureate mission. Biala emerged as the recommended nominee for appointment by the Board of Supervisors.
Biala is an award winning Filipino American poet and performance artist who has been participating in poetry performances and workshops in the Bay Area for over 20 years. Her poetry has been described as "grounded in ritual object and ritual practice, mantras that resonate within the body, and plant the body firmly in the world." She feels very fortunate to be able to collaborate with other writers, musicians, dancers and artists in creating work to share with the community.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Santa Clara, she is a long-time resident of Santa Clara County. She is the author of several collections of poetry: bone, (Helmut Press, 1993), continental drift (West End Press, 1999), and her latest book, her beckoning hands (Word Poetry Press, 2014), which just won the 2015 American Book Award. Her poems have also appeared in anthologies and journals such as Caesura, Red Wheelbarrow, REED Magazine, and Verses Typhoon Yolanda: A Storm of Filipino Poets.
The honorary post of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate was created by the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors on November 18, 2008. The Poet Laureate acts as a resource for poetry and literary activities to the Santa Clara County Library, represents the County of Santa Clara through outreach related to poetry, conducts presentations of appropriate works at the annual State of the County ceremony and other selected County sponsored events, as well as at activities to celebrate Poetry Month.
The three Poets Laureate who have served to date are: Nils Peterson (2009-2011), Sally Ashton (2011-2013) and David Perez (2014-2015). During his tenure, among several projects, Peterson created a 100-line poem called “A Family Album, Santa Clara County, 2009.”
Ashton led several projects as well and notably created “Poetry on the Move” that put poetry on VTA railcars and buses.
Perez focused on youth arts education and outreach teaching a poetry workshop series at elementary, middle and high schools. He also has introduced poetry to the public via a poetry booth at high profile public events where personalized poems are created for attendees.
The Santa Clara County Poet Laureate is an honorary post. The nominee is appointed by the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. The mission of the Poet Laureate is to:
- Elevate poetry in the awareness of Santa Clara County residents and to help celebrate the literary arts;
- Serve as an advocate for poetry, literature, and the arts;
- Lead a community project that makes poetry more accessible; and
- Contribute to Santa Clara County’s poetry and literary legacy.