2021-2022 Orange County Poet Laureates
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Inaugural Orange County Poet Laureates Appointed
16-year-old Tina Mai & award-winning poet Natalie J. Graham
recognized by LibroMobile Arts Cooperative and O.C. Public Libraries
[August 16, 2021]
[Santa Ana, CA] In partnership with Orange County Public Libraries (OCPL) and the National Youth Poet Laureate Program (NYLP) championed by Urban Word, LibroMobile Arts Cooperative (LMAC) celebrates and honors local poets who exhibit a commitment to not just artistic excellence but also civic engagement, youth leadership and social justice. On August 28th, at the LibroMobile bookstore in downtown Santa Ana, local poets will be appointed as Orange County’s first Youth Poet Laureate (OCYPL) and Poet Laureate (OC-PL) by LMAC and OCPL.
“The O.C. Poet Laureates program is important because it celebrates and creates visibility for local poets who utilize empowering words to impact social change,” says LMAC Founder and local author, Sarah Rafael García.
The O.C. Poet Laureates program collaborates with local literary arts organizations across the county and will seek to engage with leading national literary organizations including Women Who Submit, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, PEN Center USA, and the Library of Congress.
“I feel so grateful for the opportunity to share my voice, to represent a program that shapes the community through the power of words,” says Tina Mai.
Tina Mai, a 16-year-old writer and student residing in Newport Coast, CA, is the first O.C. Youth Poet Laureate in Orange County history. She has received recognition from the Library of Congress, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Poetry Society of the UK, Bow Seat, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and the CSLA, among others. Outside of writing, she finds passion in public speaking and computer science, including developing an app to aid writing accessibility through spoken word stories.
“We create what we can imagine and articulate. So, poetry is central to justice and transformation,” says Natalie J. Graham. “I’m excited to create, dream, and build together.”
Natalie J. Graham, a resident of Buena Park, CA and currently Chair of African American Studies at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), is the first O.C. Poet Laureate. Graham is an award- winning author and performer who has toured nationally with her collection of poems, Begin with a Failed Body (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Since moving to Orange County in 2013, Natalie has coordinated art-centered community events, workshops, and readings for hundreds of participants.
Both candidates were chosen by a panel of esteemed judges, which included local author and LibroMobile founder Sarah Rafael García, OCPL librarians, and Orange County-based community advocates.
“Natalie and Tina were chosen not only because of their polished, timely and necessary poetic voice,” explains García. “But because their work elevates the intersection between artistic excellence and social justice in a region that is 60% people of color. In a region where most literary and arts institutions do not reflect the majority.”
Following the incredible inaugural year of naming O.C. Poet Laureates, Mai and Graham will give readings across Orange County, at several venues including local libraries, museums, and cultural centers.
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