Poets Laureate Read: Sally Ashton

Poet Sally Ashton, Emeritus Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County ( 2011-2013) will read at the San José Poetry Festival on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José, CA. Sally will read some of her poems in our Poets Laureate Read segment at the Markham House porch from 1:00 p.m.- 1:50 p.m.

Sally Ashton is the author of Some Odd Afternoon, Her Name Is Juanita, and These Metallic Days. She is Editor-in-Chief of the DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art. Honors include a fellowship from Arts Council Silicon Valley and a residency at Montalvo Arts Center. Ashton earned her MFA at Bennington Writing Seminars. She teaches at San José State University and has taught a variety of workshops including Disquiet: International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal.


As the County Poet Laureate between 2011-2013, Sally Ashton created several reading events at various cities within the county.  She also created thematic events, where poets from the community, as well as, non-poets were encouraged to read a poem by their most favorite published poet. These events were very well attended. Poetry on the Move was another of Sally Ashton’s projects where she collaborated with VTA, Santa Clara County’s Valley Transport Authority to display winning poems of the contest inside the Light Rail. Moreover, she collaborated with local poet laureates and made available to the public, anthologies of poems read at the respective events. Local Habitations and Good Talk are two anthologies published as a result of this collaboration.



Poets Laureate Read: Arlene Biala

Arlene Biala, the current Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County will read at the San José Poetry Festival on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José, CA. She will read some of her poems in our segment Poets Laureate Read at the Markham House porch from 1:00 p.m. – 1:50 p.m.

Arlene Biala, is the current Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County (2016-2017).  A Filipina poet and performance artist, and born in San Francisco, California, Arlene is the author of bone, continental drift, and her beckoning hands, published by Word Poetry, WordTech Editions in July, 2014. Her beckoning hands recently won a 2015 American Book Award. She received her MFA in Poetics & Writing from New College of CA, and was the recipient of an artist residency at Montalvo. Performances and workshops include POETS UNITE! with current United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC; Kuwentuhan curated by Barbara Janes Reyes with Poetry Center SF; University of Texas at El Paso, Writers’ Week at UC Riverside, DiVERSEcity in NYC, San Francisco Asian American Jazz Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Manilatown Center at the I-Hotel, La Pena Cultural Center, APAture at Intersection for the Arts, Santa Clara University, and SOMArts Center in San Francisco.


Arlene has also performed for and taught creative writing workshops with elementary and high school youth. She lives in Sunnyvale, CA with her husband Carl, (blue) Queensland Heeler Pepper, and their three children: Kai, (aries) 16; Josh (scorpio) 13; and Kiana (scorpio, again) 11.

how loudly have you met her in the wind?

today like all other days she will chant
bleed this hymn into the mist until she is sure to be cured.
she places the bamboo jaw harp at her lips, asks you to recall

how many people in the philippines will have to eat toxic yams
instead of starving?
how many here will watch the news and rush to pack to balikbayan box
with old clean bed sheets packets of top ramen clothes
nestle crunch bars last year’s shoes
letters to nanay so that she won’t feel alone
here is a picture of your great granddaughter. here is our wedding picture.

how many boxes, how many letters beating
of the drums gongs listening tonight to this music
how many tunes sung into full moon waves lapping against the shores
of her lake a door, small something tapping against her leg

if you could understand her, she would be singing hip-hop funk
and drinking san miguel beer from a dusty warm bottle,
smoking a cigar and spitting brown tobacco juice into the crowd
of laughing comadres who have come to remember who they are

if you could keep up with her, the beating of the kulintang
the colors of her voice a dance she is challenging the drummer
she is challenging the drummer to respond she is scooping
twirling frenzied wrist neck feet into a dance all hair bracelets
beating the screams out of the slow lapping of the lake.



Keynote Speaker: Alejandro Murguía

We are pleased to have Poet Alejandro Murguía as our Keynote Speaker at San José Poetry Festival on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at History San José, CA. He will read at the Markham House porch from 11:00 a.m.–11:50 a.m.


Alejandro Murguía is the Sixth San Francisco Poet Laureate and the first Latino poet to hold the position. He is a professor in Latina Latino Studies at San Francisco State University and the author of the short story “The Other Barrio” which first appeared in the anthology San Francisco Noir and recently filmed in the street of the Mission District. Based on “The Other Barrio,” this San Francisco independent film, is about a man from the neighborhood wrongfully accused of arson. “I have nostalgia for the future,” he says.

In poetry he has published Stray Poems, and a new collection Native Tongue. His other works include, Southern Front and This War Called Love (both winners of the American Book Award). His non-fiction book The Medicine of Memory highlights the Mission District in the 1970s during the Nicaraguan Solidarity movement.

Alejandro  Murguía is a founding member and the first director of The Mission Cultural Center, and the founder of The Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade. He has co-edited Volcán: Poetry From Central America.

Quoting from the SFGate, “A poet, literary organizer, editor, professor and community activist, Murguía finds inspiration in the forgotten indigenous Chicano history of California, writing about the Ramaytush who once lived in the Mission District. His work weaves in the 20th century heroes of the Spanish Civil War, as well as today’s characters found walking the streets and riding the Muni trains. . . . He is more than a poet, being an activist with a social conscience and a great voice to express it,” said poet and City Lights co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of many people who nominated Murguía.”

Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle