Poetry Center San José's mission is to nurture and promote diverse literary expression in our community as a means of exploring, defining, and enriching the human experience.
In furtherance of our mission, we offer programs and services to stimulate passion for the literary arts and to inspire and support emerging and established writers. We collaborate with other organizations to ensure that these programs and services reflect the diversity of our community and to involve people from a wide range of backgrounds as audience and members.
Board of Directors
Robert Pesich, President, Fund Development
Mighty Mike McGee, Secretary, workshop coordinator
Bill Cozzini, Treasurer
Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo
Scorpiana Xlent, Slam Master, San José Poetry Slam
Julinda LeDee, Volunteer Coordinator
Nils Peterson, Emeritus
Kara Erdodi Arguello, email support
Pushpa McFarlane, Willow Glen Readings
Dennis Noren, Markham House
Dennis Richardson, Willow Glen Readings
Mary Lou Taylor
Karen Phan Trias
Black Lives Matter
Poetry Center San José denounces the murder of George Floyd, the murder of Breonna Taylor, and the murder of countless other Black and BIPOC peoples by police officers, in the years prior to 2020 and continuing since then. At PCSJ, we not only stand with the Black community, in declaring that BLACK LIVES MATTER, but we also strive to embody the belief that because Black Lives Matter, we need to make space for Black voices. PCSJ has plans to uplift Black voices the same way we have made an effort to uplift BIPOC voices with the following existing programs:
- PCSJ elevates and amplifies the voices of our BIPOC artists throughout each programming year and provides an additional affirming space for programming for our BIPOC community at our home, Markham House at History Park San Jose.
- PCSJ expanded and diversified its board of directors for improved representation of our community and to improve guidance of our organization’s mission.
- The editorial board for Cæsura was expanded and diversified and will now include multiple genres for publication in an endeavor to better represent our BIPOC community and their artistic endeavors.
- PCSJ collaborates with BIPOC-led organizations and events to help support and amplify their programming in an endeavor to elevate and strengthen the diversity of our community.
This is not near enough. We are committed to more in order to show solidarity specifically with our Black community members. To that end, the following are a list of activities and programs that we have put in place and/or have plans to finalize and launch in 2021.
- PCSJ will continue to expand and diversify our board of directors with additional attention to our executive board. This will be an ongoing effort with changes to be announced in 2021.
- PCSJ will commit in 2022 as sponsor of the Youth Poet Laureate program created by Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Janice Lobo Sapigao. The mission of the Youth Poet Laureate is to serve as an ambassador for civic engagement, literary excellence, and social justice through literacy, arts, and youth expression with ongoing opportunities for performances and community collaborations.
- We will continue to offer a series of free creative writing workshops for young writers with instruction centering Black artists and writers.
- PCSJ will continue its co-sponsorship of the Elmwood Poet Society, a creative writing program started in 2020 in Elmwood Jail that also provides opportunities for incarcerated individuals to publish their work in Cæsura and Cæsura Online.
- PCSJ will present a recurring program featuring Black writers in conversation followed by a Q&A for an audience of young writers of Santa Clara County and surrounding communities. Subjects of discussion will include sources of inspiration that were formative, particularly the work of writers and poets. Beautiful Black Books will be launched on June 19th to celebrate Emancipation Day, to celebrate Black authors, and to help diversify the high-school curriculum.
This is a living, breathing list and we will continue to expand upon it as we strive to curate experiences that engender our commitment to equality and diversity. We stress that this is not enough to combat centuries of violence and oppression, but is part of our continued effort within our sphere to influence as part of the greater effort to help eradicate all forms of violence against the Black community, against Indigenous communities, and against all BIPOC people. For Poetry Center San Jose, this effort starts at home, here in the City of San Jose, where we hereby commit to removing our own complicit behaviors.
Poetry Center San José is continually seeking new participants in organizing, programming, marketing and other areas. To find out how to participate, contact volunteer (at) pcsj.org.
Poetry Center San José is a member supported organization and is funded, in part, by grants from Applied Materials Foundation, the City of San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs, Poets & Writers, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Creates, in partnership with the County of Santa Clara and the California Arts Council and generous giving from Anne & Mark's Art Party.
PCSJ, A History
Nils Peterson and Naomi Clark founded what is now called Poetry Center San José in 1978. As its first Executive Director, Naomi and her husband hosted workshops with such poets as Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell, and William Stafford. The Center’s main objective has been to provide a place for pur community of poets to come together, improve their craft, and support one another. Readings, workshops, and academic programs have been continual.
Hundreds of exceptional writers from around the world have read from their works and conducted workshops for the large community of writers in the Bay Area over the past thirty years, among them Yehuda Amichai, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Lucille Clifton; Poets Laureates Billy Collins, Rita Dove, and Robert Hass; Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirschfield, Carolyn Kizer, Li-Young Lee, W. S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich, Gerald Stern, the late Czeslaw Milosz, US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, Sharon Olds and many others.
Previously run out of board members’ garages, PCSJ officially opened the Markham House as its headquarters on May 26, 2002, in a ceremony led by NEA chair Dana Gioia. Francisco X. Alarcon, nominated as California’s Poet Laureate, read at the dedication along with Jack and Adele Foley. The building—moved from its previous location to History Park and subsequently restored, rewired, painted and furnished with the support of many volunteers and sponsors—was the house where Edwin Markham lived near the San José State campus in the late 1800s. It contains an exhibit of Markham’s memorabilia and poetry and the start of several specific libraries for poets.
PCSJ also publishes the literary journal Caesura, which has gained a national reputation. Two of its poems have earned Pushcart Prizes and cover designs by designer Joe Miller have been published in books on design and typography.