State Still Has a Job Where You Can Feed Public a Line

Times Staff Writer

Wanted: A published bard of stature who will spread verse and understanding throughout California’s classrooms and boardrooms. Financially independent self-starters preferred. Must have car.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Arts Council announced Monday that they had begun accepting nominations for the position of California’s poet laureate and ambassador for the literary arts. The new state rhymester, who will serve for two years, must appear at a minimum of six public readings and “undertake a significant cultural project.” The candidate may or may not be fully compensated for these endeavors, according to officials.

“The poet laureate is a position that seeks to inform and educate all Californians about the value of poetry and the value of the spoken word,” said Adam Gottlieb, spokesman for the arts council. “We’re looking for an artist who will take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. We’re very excited.”


In addition to transforming the ordinary, applicants will be asked to traverse the Golden State for little or no compensation. Although Gottlieb said legislation provides for an unspecified stipend, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman suggested that candidates who choose to forgo pay could earn a leg up in the selection process.

“As you know, this is a very tight fiscal year,” said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh. “Quite possibly, a poet laureate may step up to the plate and volunteer their time. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Thirty-six other states have appointed poet laureates, most of whom toil in obscurity.

Gottlieb said he and arts council members hoped to select a poet with greater visibility.

“I see the poet laureate throwing out the first ball at Dodger Stadium,” Gottlieb said. “I see them traveling to places where people are not usually exposed to the literary arts ... I see them generating wonderful ideas, something like wrapping a poem across the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Monday’s call for nominations is the second time the state has tried to fill the post since the Legislature created it two years ago. When then-Gov. Gray Davis’ administration put out a call for applicants, the response was tepid at best. Several of the state’s best-known poets begged off, and the state received fewer than 50 applications before the deadline. Poets, a notoriously shy class of artists, also complained that the position was more of a headache than an honor.

Finally, Quincy T. Troupe was chosen as California’s first official poet laureate. But he resigned four months later when a routine background check revealed he didn’t have the college degree listed on his resume. He also resigned his $140,000-a-year job as literary professor at UC San Diego because of the resume problem.

Schwarzenegger’s office said it was unclear whether the poet laureate would be asked to appear at state functions, although that certainly would be considered. Carbaugh said that instead of codifying the responsibilities of the poet laureate, the governor would look to the poet to determine his or her duties.


“Basically, what they do is wide open,” Carbaugh said. “The sky is the limit. We’re looking forward to an active and energetic poet laureate.”

The deadline for nominations is Jan. 31. According to the announcement by the governor’s office, candidates must be “recognized for excellence in their work; have a significant number of published works; be considered to be a poet of stature; and must have resided in California for at least 10 years.”

The California Arts Council will collect the names of the applicants, review their qualifications and forward a list of recommendations to the governor. The final choice must be approved by the state Senate.

Application guidelines and criteria are available on the arts council’s website at