Governor names California’s first official Poet Laureate

By JIM WASSERMAN, The Associated Press
Wednesday June 12, 2002

SACRAMENTO – After decades of largely unheralded state poets appointed by legislators, Gov. Gray Davis has named La Jolla poet Quincy Troupe, 62, as California’s first official poet laureate. 

Troupe, inheriting an honorary tradition dating to the English Middle Ages, will receive a $10,000 honorarium to make readings around the state and raise the profile of poetry, especially among school children. 

“Poetry is a very powerful, a beautiful and necessary and ancient art,” Troupe said. More than 15 poets and representatives of poetry associations applauded the moment and Troupe’s reading of “Flight,” a poem about flying above California’s coastline. 

Troupe, author of 13 books, including six books of poetry, is a professor of creative writing and American and Caribbean literature at the University of California, San Diego. Nominated for the post by San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art, his latest books are entitled “Choruses” and “Avalanche.” 

“Poetry humanizes people. It really humanized me,” explained Troupe, who said his mother read poetry to him as a child, and that he began writing while recovering from basketball injuries. Explaining how he writes, Troupe said, “Sometimes it doesn’t come. And sometimes it comes and it’s terrible. And sometimes it’s glorious. That’s what I live for.” 

California first lady Sharon Davis announced the selection Tuesday, citing Troupe’s “work as a writer and his accomplishments as an educator.” Gov. Davis picked Troupe among three finalists selected in March by a California Arts Council panel. 

Runners-up included poets Francisco X. Alarcon, 48, of Davis, and Diane DiPrima, 67, of San Francisco. 

Troupe is a New York City native and 11-year California resident. Touted by the arts council as California’s first official poet laureate, he succeeds five state poets appointed by the Legislature since 1915. The last was Fresno poet Gus Garrigus, who served from 1966 until his death in 2000. 

Troupe, accompanied by his wife, Margaret Porter Troupe, promised a “literacy through poetry” program for California schools. He also plans to bring poetry to corporations during lunch hours, to churches, community centers and the Legislature. 

“I intend to do a great job. I intend to bother people, seriously,” he said, referring to fund-raising to heighten poetry’s profile.