Nancy Gonzalez St. Clair named Lodi's first poet laureate

Jan. 21—For centuries, national, state and local governments have appointed literary artists to compose poems for special occasions, dubbing them "Poet Laureate."

Now the City of Lodi has such a person to do just that.

The Lodi City Council voted 3-0 to name Nancy Gonzalez St. Clair as the city's very first poet laureate during its Wednesday meeting.

"It is my hope that as poet laureate, I will elevate our community's presence and improve literacy and lifelong learning," St. Clair said during Wednesday's meeting. "And I hope to celebrate our city's events of celebration, moments of memory, and tell the story of our community's journey."

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director Christina Jaromay said the council approved a grant submission to the Library and Literacy Foundation of San Joaquin last June to create a poet laureate position for Lodi.

The foundation ultimately awarded the city $15,000 to administer the poet laureate program for three years, she said.

The parks department issued a Call to Artist for a poet laureate on the city's website and social media pages throughout October.

The Lodi Arts Commission reviewed prospective candidates, and decided St. Clair was best suited to be the city's first poet laureate.

Jaromay noted that St. Clair's poetry has been published in a variety of literary magazines, and that St. Clair hosts a weekly poetry program called Mosaic of Voices, and served on the Sacramento Poetry Board for several years.

Her long history as a poet made her the best candidate for the position.

"Nancy believes that poetry is a mirror of human existence, that it reflects our personal lives, memories, dreams and imaginations," she said. "Her poetry is impacted by cultures, environment, past, present and contemplation. And she believes poetry is both healing and transformative."

According to Wednesday's staff report, the Poet Laureate Program will support local literacy programs, foster appreciation for poetry and its benefits through readings at civic events, developing commemorative poems that express Lodi life, and provide workshops to the community.

As poet laureate, St. Clair will serve as a liaison, advocate, and leader for poetry, spoken word and the literary arts.

She will also create original works inspired by the local community and foster critical thinking, connection, and appreciation of the literary arts through public readings, workshops and public events, according to staff.

A 1995 graduate of Tokay High School, St. Clair is a teacher with the Lodi Unified School District, and has served as a board member with A New Lodi and The Breakthrough Project.

Last year, she was one of eight candidates running to replace Chuck Winn on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.

She told the council Wednesday that being named the city's first laureate was an honor, and that she hoped to do great things.

"My vision as poet laureate is to enrich the lives of Lodi by fostering the reading and writing of poetry through readings, writings, workshops and social media," she said. "I host Mosaic of Voices, so hopefully you all can come and listen to some poetry."

St. Clair said Mosaic of Voices is held every first Saturday of the month, and that she invites poets from across Northern California to participate.

She is hoping to call the Lodi Public Library a permanent home for the program, and said she is currently discussing the idea with library director Akiliah Manuel Mills.

"I hope we do see you at many events, and feel free to come back to the council on a non-agenda (item) and give us a little boost," Vice Mayor Lisa Craig said. "We need that. We're glad to have you."

Mayor Mikey Hothi and councilman Cameron Bregman were both absent from Wednesday's meeting.