Nevada County names inaugural poet laureate
Molly Fisk became the inaugural poet laureate of Nevada County this month. She gave a reading at the Sierra Poetry Festival, another first for the county, on April 1 to celebrate her appointment.
Dana Gioia, poet laureate of California, gave a keynote address at the festival. It was just one stop on his tour of all 58 counties in California, 15 of which now have their own poet laureates.
“The festival was fabulous for its first year,” said Fisk, who read a selection of her work to a crowd of about 100. She will give readings throughout the year, which is the designated job of a poet laureate — a tradition that dates back to the 1300s. She may be commissioned to write poems for any number occasions that are of particular significance to the county.
Fisk began her career in poetry when she moved back to California after a 20-year stint on the East Coast.
“When I came back, I started to notice all the smells that I’d been missing while I was away. The fragrances. I tasted sourgrass again, which I had nearly forgotten about. It was little tiny stuff that cracked me open,” she said.
During a time when she lived at Stinson Beach in Marin County, Fisk said she would often write poems and then memorize them while taking long walks along the sand. She became enamored by authors like Mary Oliver and Dorianne Laux, who inspired her work.
Fisk moved to Nevada County in 1996, and has been a staple of the local writing community ever since. She gives weekly readings on KVMR, teaches writing workshops and has an office in Nevada City where she works as a life coach. She also teaches Writing to Heal, a class for cancer patients and their supporters at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
Nevada County has been a poetry hotspot for years, said Fisk, noting that Gary Snyder, along with his friends, originally brought notoriety to the local poetry scene in the 1970’s.
“It’s a really artistic community,” she said, “and it’s nice to have that more formally recognized.”
Local groups are already making plans to use Fisk’s services as poet laureate. She is currently posting daily writing prompts for her “Poem-a-Day” program on the Nevada County Arts Council website in celebration of April as National Poetry Month.
Fisk was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry in 1998, a recommendation by the County Board of Supervisors. The board also sponsored Fisk’s appointment as poet laureate this April, along with the Arts Council.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 530-477-4231.
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