Poet Laureate

VC Arts Council Poet Laureate Ventura County Arts Council Poet Laureate Biography:

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.

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  


A Poet Laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution.  In ancient Greece, the laurel was used to form a crown or wreath of honor for poets and heroes. As the concept of the poet laureate spread, the term “laureate” has come to signify recognition for preeminence or superlative achievement, such as Nobel laureate.

The US Poet Laureate is appointed annually by the Librarian of the US Congress and serves as the nation’s official poet, seeking to raise consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.

The current US Poet Laureate is Juan Felippe Herrera, formerly California’s Poet Laureate. The current Poet Laureate of California is Dana Gioia, appointed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The Ventura County Arts Council established the position in 2014. The VC Poet Laureate serves for two years.


Ventura County Poet Laureate Committee

Marsha de la O  *  Friday Gretchen  *  Sandra Hunter  *  Edwin Donegal
Nancy-Jean Pément  *  Lin Rolens  *  Mary Kay Rummel  *  Fernando Salinas
Marcus Van


The former Poet Laureate, Mary Kay Rummel, was the first to serve in this post in the years 2014 to 2016.  An example of her work “What The Sea Brings” is listed below:

Mary Kay Rummel Poet Laureate

Mary Kay Rummel

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