The title of Poet Laureate is a time-honored tradition. In 1668, England officially established the post as a royal office. In the 19th century some local Poet Laureates were recognized in their communities. In 1937 the U.S. created the position of National Poet Laureate.The position of California Poet Laureate was established as a part of the California Government Code in 2001 through AB 113.
19-Year-Old is Amador’s New Poet Laureate
A new Poet Laureate for Amador County has just been announced by Amador County Arts Council (AmadorArts). The honor goes to Deja Douglas of Jackson, selected from numerous nominations locally. The appointment of Deja Douglas is notably significant since at the age of 19 years, she could be the youngest adult Poet Laureate among California counties.
Following Amador’s inaugural Poet Laureate, the renowned Kat Everitt, Douglas will serve in this honorary leadership role for two years. Douglas will be at the forefront of Amador poetry, making presentations at a variety of public events, helping to focus attention on poetry as an art form, and bringing poetry to school children and high schoolers in the Poetry Out Loud curriculum. In case you were wondering, Laureate refers to wearing a crown of laurel leaves, a symbol of honor in Ancient Greece for poets and heroes.
It’s been said that “One line of poetry can change a life.”That pretty much summarizes Deja Douglas’ background. She credits Jackson Junior High School teacher Kathy Baptista with introducing her to poetry, fueling the flame of creativity that was unknown to Douglas. She became prolific at making poetry and art books that she still keeps. Expressing herself through writing, she found a spark in her life. Then, at Argonaut High School, she was inspired again by teachers she now refers to as heroes: Matt Hovey, Meghan O’Keefe, and Valerie Davidson.
Another person Douglas is thankful for is former AmadorArts Board member Nan Muzinich. “She helped me become a better artist and was the first person to pay me for a commission piece of artwork!” With her encouragement, Douglas applied for and became one of the first Student Directors of AmadorArts. https://www.amadorarts.org/
When asked what has been her favorite journey so far, she says it was attending a teacher convention in the Bay Area about how to integrate the Arts into the classroom. “On that trip my whole perspective changed and I was met with many wonderful diverse people, all truly passionate about the Arts…I saw how our identities and cultures play a major role in the arts.”
In January of 2018, Deja’s poetry reading at the ACUSD School Board Meeting, brought Trustees to tears and was instrumental in the adoption of the Declaration for All Students to Equitable Arts Education. ACUSD was the third district in the state to adopt this document that affirms all students K-12 will receive equitable, rigorous, and sequential arts education. Douglas and other students have been instrumental in Arts Education Advocacy in Amador County. https://www.artsed411.org/
She created and entered into a statewide competition a video, Student Voices, Campaign, about the loss of Art in schools. Called “Lost Connection.” Deja says it “expresses our dream for all students to have access to Arts Education and the freedom to freely express themselves.” Deja is the narrator whose poignant poem is heard behind the visuals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Her current poetry, which she often reads at AmadorArts Open Mic https://www.amadorarts.org/
As a recent graduate of Argonaut High she will be continuing her education online from Sonora’s Columbia College. Along with her part-time job, and now, new poetry roles, she’ll be busy. AmadorArts Executive Director, Meghan O’Keefe said “We are all excited to work with Douglas in Poetry and Arts Advocacy. Douglas provides a fresh perspective and is such a talented poet, academic, and visual artist, with a huge heart to boot! Together with the Board, Staff, and Kat Everitt, we are going to nurture poetic arts throughout Amador.” This activity is made possible in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Find out more at arts.ca.gov.
Welcome Deja Douglas as our new Amador County Poet Laureate.
Stale and dry is the air.
Crammed within the cluttered rooms.
Where the fluid Winds of Change dare not drift.
Stiff, spent, days
Into sweltering Oblivion.
Both mind and body plunged,
Far far beneath the muggy flat waters.
Shrouded by green slippery sludge.
Covering the Stony Rocky Shore-
of lost hopes and dreams.
Nothing changes here!
Yet, the light still reflects
upon even the most gloomy
Murkiest of waters.
© Deja Douglas
The first ever honor is held by Kat Everitt of Pioneer. As established by AmadorArts, the position is meant to respect local outstanding poets, integrate poetry into the community, enrich the education of our young people, and enhance the County’s position as a cultural center. The Poet Laureate is a two-year, volunteer, honorary position.
The Cultural Arts Advisory Committee works with the Executive Director in utilizing the Decision Support Tool to ensure that Poet Laureate selection reflects the principals of Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion.
About Amador’s First Poet Laureate:
First Poet Laureate of Amador County: Kat Everitt
By Penny West, Publicist
It was an honor and a pleasure to have a phone conversation with Kat Everitt last week. She has completed her two-year term as Amador County’s first Poet Laureate, a fulfilling time for both her and the community.
The cheery go-getter in her mid-70s enthusiastically cited the many collaborative projects that came out of her tenure. She originated the 2019 Songbook of Amador and Calaveras Counties in which 28 local performers shared their lyrics in a magazine format published by the Ledger-Dispatch. Watch for a similar magazine, which she engendered, along with publisher Jack Mitchell, coming out June 26 that collaborates poets and photographers of the two counties. Poetry lovers have long-enjoyed her weekly poems in the Poet Laureate column in the Ledger-Dispatch called “Rivers and Rhymes.” Included most times is a photograph by a local photographer, in collaboration.
Tutoring the teenaged candidates for the Poetry Out Loud competition was another gratifying accomplishment for Poet Laureate Everitt. She greatly aided the young poets’ recitations by creating recorded samples of how to recite poems from the official Poetry Out Loud Anthology always available here www.poetryoutloud.org.
This past year, she established the Amador Storytelling Guild which has a faithful following, even though meeting through Zoom (required at the moment) somewhat decreases the “sociability” aspect so necessary to story recitation and sharing. The group is eager to meet in-person once allowed.
When asked who do you most admire, Kat quickly answered the 250 individuals she interviewed for “Everywoman’s Hour” on KQBM Blue Mountain Community Radio, a broadcast of “Women Who Make a Difference in Their Communities”, archived in www.everywomanshour.org and on the website of the Amador County Historical Society (https://www.amadorcountyhistoricalsociety.org/), as one of the largest collection of oral histories of women in the Mother Lode. Kat is also the creator of three cookbooks written in poetry, the latest being “Kat’s Eclectic Hodgepodge of International Cookery,” coming out in Fall, 2020.
I had to pose the question: “Who is your favorite poet?” Kat answered: e e cummings, because “He had the courage to write poetry HIS way.” And that lead us into her response to my closing question: “Do you have Words of Wisdom for us all? And Kat Everitt said it all with one sentence. “When being creative, do it exactly as you please. Nothing else will satisfy you!”
Kat Everitt is the original “woman who made a difference”. And she still does! Amador County Arts Council established the Amador Poet Laureate Program in 2018 to highlight all kinds of poetry throughout our community. The Amador County Arts Council thanks Kat Everitt for her superlative creativity and dedication to the project.