Poet Laureate

VC Arts Council Poet Laureate

Current Ventura County Poet Laureate, Phil Taggart

The Ventura County Arts Council is seeking nominations for the position of Ventura County Poet Laureate. The person selected will strive to advance awareness of and appreciation for literary arts and humanities within Ventura County. As both a resident and a distinguished poet, the Poet Laureate shall represent and celebrate the diversity and history of Ventura County. As a representative of the county’s literary community, the Poet Laureate shall endeavor to promote a wide range of literary arts within the county and shall actively participate in ceremonial, educational and cultural activities throughout the county at various times in his or her termv of service.

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Term of Service

The Poet Laureate for Ventura County is an honorary position. The individual appointed will
serve a two-year term, commencing in January, 2020. Nearing the end of the Poet Laureate’s term, and prior to initiating the next nomination process, the Ventura County Arts Council may extend an invitation to the sitting Poet Laureate to serve a second consecutive term. The Poet Laureate will have thirty days to respond. If he or she elects not to accept the Arts Council’s invitation, the Poet Laureate must wait an intervening term (2 years) prior to being re-nominated.


The Poet Laureate will receive an honorarium of $1000 per term.

Term Expectations

As a condition of appointment, the Poet Laureate will participate in a minimum of four annual public functions throughout the two year term of service. Additionally, the Poet Laureate shall aim to be actively involved with local colleges and schools, and shall endeavor to create or facilitate workshops and readings that will bring the Poet Laureate into contact with students of all ages, and the public in a variety of contexts. To the extent possible, the Poet Laureate also will establish programs to coincide with his or her term of service to promote community awareness of the literary arts, and to encourage community members to develop their own creative interests.

Who May Be Nominated

Eligible nominees must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a current resident of the county of Ventura, with at least five consecutive years of residency
  • Be available to travel throughout Ventura County
  • Be a recognized poet who meets the preponderance of the selection criteria listed below

Selection Criteria

  • A proven history of publication of individual poems and/or books, including work that is not self-published or by a vanity press
  • An established presence and history of involvement in the Ventura County literary community, i.e., readings, publications, public presentations, hosting, and teaching
  • Recognition as demonstrated by press coverage, special honors, or awards

Who May Nominate or Apply

Ventura County Poet Laureate nominations may come from any organization or individual. Self-nominations will not be accepted.

The Review and Selection Process

The Poetry Committee shall review the nomination materials and candidate poets, and recommend one or more for consideration by the Ventura County Arts Council, who will make the final appointment of the Poet Laureate. The Committee may seek additional information or clarification from nominators and the respective poets after nomination materials have been submitted, and may conduct interviews of some or all of the nominees before making its recommendations to the Arts Council.

The Poetry Committee

The Poetry Committee is established by the VCAC to broadly represent the Ventura County literary community. Former Poet Laureates shall be invited to serve on the Poetry Committee whenever feasible. A member of the Board of the Ventura County Arts Council will serve as part of the committee. The Poetry Committee shall endeavor to serve as a support group to help facilitate  projects the Poet Laureate may want to pursue.

Application Deadline

Nomination application materials may be obtained from the Ventura County Arts Council through the contact sources below. Completed nominations should be sent to the Poetry Committee at the Ventura County Arts Council’s office, website, or email address. Mailed nominations must be postmarked on or before November 12, 2019. Materials submitted will not be returned.

Office location and mailing address
Ventura County Arts Council
646 County Square Drive Ste. 154
Ventura, CA 93003

Website address

Email address

Use e-mail for most reliable response

VC Arts Council Poet Laureate

Current Ventura County Poet Laureate, Phil Taggart

Cyber Back-Forty

somewhere south
of Socorro away from
the prying eyes of
pinkertons the dream
is swept into the web

synapse like it twinkles
and wonders through
bouncing from stream
to stream where sometimes
it traps beaver and sells us
the pelts to make hats

 Phil Taggart


Phil Taggart has published three collections of poems: Rick Sings (Brandenberg Press), Opium Wars (Millie Grazie Press) and Cowboy Collages, an art book in collaboration with Texas artist Ann Harithas. He is editor and punlisher of Askew with Marsha de la O and Friday Gretchen.

For his work in promoting an understanding of mental disorders, The Turning Point Foundation honored him with a Champion of Mental Health Award. He has received an Arts Stars award from the Ventura County Arts Council as well as the Mayor’s Art Award. Mr. Taggart grew up in South Whittier and lives in Ventura with his wife Marsha de la O, who is also a published author of poems.

Mary Kay Rummel Poet Laureate

Former Poet Laureate, Mary Kay Rummel, was the first to serve in this post from 2014 to 2016.

What the Sea Brings

Ventura Boardwalk

Purple and blue dark, round circles of stone,

its green is made of shadow disturbance,

Sun falls through turning inside out.

Islands hum through clouds white and gold,

every curl, every crush shouting light,

every crest trailing a veil.

Gulls gather and talk, wash their feathers

before ghost flying. On the shore, lupine

seeds fall. Gorse unfurls its fur.

Egret calls from the tide pool,

Come and look!

I see, I answer. My heart shines there,

reflected in a sky where midnight marries noon.

I hold in my mind two thinks at a time.

I listen to sea prayer, stories broken open

on the shore where couples murmur

as oily backed birds scramble for seeds.

A gaggle of mothers pushing strollers flutters by.

Young men from a group home spear trash.

One leaves the line and chases a wave, laughing.

Thrown from a light shot California sky,

windsurfer angel with black and red wings

tries to fly off a breaking wave, legs drawn up.

This is how it ends—surfers rise from the sea
like shadows of waves, pick up their white boards,
walk west.

An old man in fringed leather bikes

the length of the boardwalk, an empty bag in his basket.

The sun flares red fire—throws strings of wild.

Where everything taken turns to bone,

dropped waves roar, become songs of stones.

Yes, I say, Yes. This is my house.

–Mary Kay Rummel