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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

With a crown of greenery perched atop his head, poet David Starkey praised Santa Barbara’s “euphonious” street names in verse and was ushered in as Santa Barbara’s newest poet laureate in April.

Speaking before the Santa Barbara City Council and packed council chambers, the bashful bard accepted the role, and the wreath, from then-laureate Perie Longo.

Audio:< /b> Listen to a poetry reading by David Starkey

Even longtime Santa Barbarans may find themselves pleasantly surprised that the city even has a poet laureate. That’s probably because Starkey is just the third of the laureates appointed; the first was Barry Spacks in 2005.

Starkey said he feels the position signals a dedication to the arts unparalleled with other cities of Santa Barbara’s size.

“Several times, Mayor Blum has said to me personally, ‘It gives Santa Barbara a sense that the arts do matter,’” he said. “Regular folks are invested in the arts here in a way that they aren’t in other places.”

And keeping poetry on the public’s mind is especially important because of the very nature of words, he said.

“The literary arts can vanish in a way that the other arts can’t, because you say your words and they just kind of vanish on the wind,” he said. “It’s nice to have somebody out there, and whose official job is to keep poetry in the public eye.”

Santa Barbara’s poet laureate position is a two-year stint, which pays a nominal $1,000. The seated poet laureate is expected to compose poems for city celebrations or ceremonies, and must provide a minimum of four annually. In addition to that, the city’s poet laureate is expected to be involved with local schools, workshops and readings.

As if that isn’t enough to keep Starkey busy, in addition to having his own TV show, “The Creative Community” on Channel 21, and a slew of books to his name, he’s also director of the creative writing program at Santa Barbara City College. In an environment where technological advances threaten to further deteriorate the English language, Starkey was concerned that people would consider creative writing a “frivolity.”

But he’s seen a lot of interest in creative writing lately, and he’s even spoken with several people enrolled at SBCC who are using unemployment as an excuse to come back and learn writing skills.

The city appoints its poet laureate based on a recommendation from the Poet Laureate Review Committee, which is made of members from the Arts Advisory Committee, and nominations can come from any organization or individual, but poets cannot self-nominate.

Many who have appeared on Starkey’s show rallied behind the poet at City Hall during his coronation. Artists Rafael Parea De La Cabada and photographer Nell Campbell were at the gathering, along with members of Starkey’s family.

And if Starkey’s first poem he shared before the council, “The Difference Between Poets and Politicians,” is any indication, the public has a lot to look forward to with him at the city’s literary helm.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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» on 05.02.09 @ 08:41 AM

How about printing one of his poems? The one about SB street names? Thanks.

» on 05.02.09 @ 10:41 AM

WE couldn’t have a nicer, more talented guy to represent us. Congratulations.

» on 05.02.09 @ 11:27 AM

I look forward to hearing more from our Poet

» on 05.02.09 @ 05:49 PM

Is it too, too foolish for me to hope that some of his poetry actually will have some lines that have rhythm and rhyme. I know it is not P C but I am always hoping.

» on 07.04.09 @ 01:12 PM

A mere mortal, in the words of dieties, distills the only thoughts worthy of this modern monarch.  Only his
words justly honor the soul and substance of our best- known brother. Cruelly mauled in life, now eternally
forged into the human essence, Michael would be amused with what remains. May Lethe grant some small remembrance within that timeless, magic kingdom as we who remain grow older. 

-For David Starkey, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate, on the
publication of his poem, “Prayer For MJ”, which appears
on the front page of The Santa Barbara News-Press, today,
July 4, 2009.

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