Help Wanted: Need to write fine lines

Arlene Biala, poet laureate

Santa Clara County is looking for someone who rhymes…or not.
The county is taking applications for a Poet Laureate, an honorary two-year position whose role is to elevate poetry in the awareness of Santa Clara County residents and to help celebrate the literary arts.The honorary post was created by the Board of Supervisors in 2008.
Four Poets Laureate have served to date: Nils Peterson (2009-2011), Sally Ashton (2011-2013), David Perez (2014-2015), and Arlene Biala (2016-2017). 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 and introducing poetry to the public via a Poetry Booth at high profile public events. Biala has led numerous poetry workshops and has brought a pop-up PoeTREE to events and public spaces, encouraging people of all ages to write lines or short poems.
“The Santa Clara County Poet Laureate celebrates the literary arts, engaging poetry enthusiasts and creating a deeper appreciation for poetry in our community,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who is also chair of the Santa Clara County Library District Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board. “We encourage poets from throughout the county to apply for the 2018-19 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate post.”
The Poet Laureate must be a current county resident who has lived here for for three years and been published or recognized for poetry and literature. They must be available to serve a two-year term. The candidate’s poetic interests should represent, the diversity of arts and cultures in Santa Clara County and they should embrace the opportunity to engage in civic discourse.
Duties include representing Santa Clara County and the art of poetry through outreach related to poetry; participating in up to five county-sponsored events, dedications, or memorials per year by selecting and presenting appropriate works; and act as a resource for poetry and literary activities of the Santa Clara County Library District.
They are also expected to lead and participate in National Poetry Month events and activities;
undertake projects throughout the community that will make poetry more available and accessible to people in their everyday lives; and participate in social media to update the public on Poet Laureate events and projects.
They will contribute to the creation of a poetic identity for Santa Clara County for a modest honorarium. You can see previous work at and
The selection process will be administered by SVCREATES. Applications will be peer-reviewed by established poets by October 2017. Interviews with finalists will be conducted and completed in November 2017. The recommended Poet Laureate will be announced at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors in January 2018.
Application guidelines are available at Applications should be submitted either by email to [email protected] or by mail to: Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, SVCREATES, 38 W. Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95113. The application deadline is September 29 at 5 p.m.
See local poet laureates at an Aug 27 event at 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Café Stritch, 374 S. 1st St., San Jose.Poets interested in applying to serve as the 2018-19 Poet Laureate are encouraged to attend.
Here’s one of Biala’s poems:

Mingus Among Us

Mingus weaves and I think 
I want to dance with him
I want to fuse sax and bones  
with my fingertips
Is it the wrong song?
Does it even matter?
I am here in this room, looking
at a face emerging from his femur
Skeleton man running after Mingus’ notes
and cigarette smoke
Another strange break in the rhythm
but it’s okay, I know it’s not meant to be easy
Easy is not evolution
Easy is pollution 
and too many marked trails
I want to know if Mingus knows 
the meaning of life
and what it means to be 
taller than trees
ivory keys hold their breath
high notes remind us, again
it’s not supposed to be easy
In this movement, one of four,
I’m conjuring ocean
the rest will come later
For now, this is the riff:
You tell me about this species
I’ll tap my toes
You tell me about a book
valued at $4,000
and I want to just lick it,
taste the woodblock cuts
grooving out of reach
I want that solo
But it won’t work that way
Here. Take the replica
touch it all you want
Flip the script, throw the bones
deep cut the lines into asking 
for the answers
It’s extra credit
It’s all I need
I want Mingus to linger
tonight, after I leave this place,
drive through the rain
thinking about vertebrae and 
bass notes, dissonance
folded up like an accordion
trying to swallow and breathe you
at the same time.