The Ventura County Poet Laureate is a Ventura County resident and distinguished poet who advances awareness of and appreciation for literary arts and humanities within Ventura County. The Ventura County Arts Council recently inaugurated Luzmaria Espinosa as its third Poet Laureate.
Ms. Espinosa will serve a two-year term of service, during which she will represent and celebrate the diversity and history of Ventura County. As a representative of the county’s literary community, she will promote a wide range of literary arts within the county and participate in ceremonial, educational and cultural activities throughout the county at various times during her term.
The position of Poet Laureate is largely voluntary and no tax dollars are spent in the execution of its duties. All funding is generated through private contributions and cultural grants. The laureateship has previously been held by local poets Phil Taggart and Mary Kay Rummel.
About Luzmaria Espinosa
Luzmaria “Luzma” Espinosa is a poet, a life-long activist, teatrista, danzante and cultural worker. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, she and her family migrated to Ventura County in 1956, and she attended Santa Paula schools. She received BA degrees from UC Santa Barbara in Spanish and Sociology, and she earned an Adult Teaching Credential and MA from Antioch University. She has shared her poetry in K-12 schools, community colleges and community cultural events in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County, throughout California, Mexico, Nicaragua and Africa. She acknowledges that her inspiration to develop her poetry came from her mentors and friends, fellow activist artists José Montoya, Javier Pacheco and John Trudell.
Ms. Espinosa has performed in theater productions with the former group, Los Mascarones of Mexico City, Teatro Gusto of the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco, Teatro de la Calle in Sacramento, and Teatro In Lak ‘Ech of Oxnard. She was also a member of TENAZ (Teatro Nacional de Aztlan).
In 1979, she became a member of the Royal Chicano Air Force, a Sacramento, California-based art collective which supported the activities of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta and helped to advance the cause of the United Farm Workers movement and other marginalized groups. She also began her life’s passion of sharing and teaching Danza Azteca. She is the first person to introduce Danza Mexica/Azteca to the Central Coast of California, where her group has impacted hundreds of lives—particularly youth—throughout Ventura County.
Her archives were recently installed at California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI) in Ventura County and are a testament to her lifelong commitment to peace and justice. This exhibition features her rare, never-before-seen art collection, which includes original pieces by members of the Royal Chicano Air Force, such as José Montoya and Estebán Villa, and other Chicana/o artists of the 1970s, such as Magú and more. Her unique collection features well-preserved original documentation of the Chicano Teatro movement and her own works of poetry and Danza history. It provides a visual, historical narrative of a rich Chicana/o Cultural Art Movement that includes rare recordings, artifacts, primary sources and decades-long solidarity work with Centro America and beyond. Her collection inserts a Chicana narrative and local context, including from her hometown of Santa Paula.
Past Poet Laureates
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 has published several poetry books, including What’s Left Is The Singing (Blue Light Press, 2010), Love in the End (Bright Hill Press, 2008), The Illuminations (Cherry Grove Collections 2006), Green Journey Red Bird (Loonfeather Press), The Long Journey Into North (Juniper Press) and This Body She’s Entered, a Minnesota Voices Award winner from New Rivers Press.
Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including RUNES, Bloomsbury Review, Nimrod (as an award finalist), Whistling Shade, Water-Stone Review, Comstock Review, Askew, the Irish journal The SHOp, and Dust and Fire, where she is the 2009 Diane Glancy Award winner. In addition, her works appear in To Sing Along the Way , an anthology of Minnesota women poets published by New Rivers Press, and Poetic Voices Without Borders 2, published by Gival Press. Her short fiction is forthcoming in an anthology from Wising Up Press. Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate of England, chose the title poem of Love in the End to be exhibited at London/Art. “Eclipse” was shortlisted for the Féile Filíochta International Poetry Competition in Dublin.
Mary Kay enjoys performing poetry and has collaborated in her work with visual artists, musicians and dancers. She has read in many venues in Ireland, England, and the United States, including recently at the Ojai Poetry Festival at Ojai, CA. A professor emerita from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, she divides her time between Minneapolis and Ventura, CA, where she teaches at California State University at Channel Islands.