Board of Supervisors Appoints Performance Poet and Comedian Mike McGee as 2018-19 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

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New poet laureate to create writing and performance poetry initiative at middle schools and high schools


SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. —The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors has appointed Mike McGee to the honorary post of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate for a two-year term ending Dec. 31, 2019. McGee, a long-time resident of the San José area and a local fixture in the poetry community, is a performance poet, storyteller, writer, comedian, creator of open mic events, and facilitator of San José Poetry Slam since its inception.

“The Poet Laureate is our County’s honorary ambassador for the literary arts,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “We appreciate his creativity and ability to engage through storytelling and performance poetry.” 

The Poet Laureate’s role is to elevate Santa Clara County residents’ awareness of poetry, and to help celebrate the literary arts. McGee was recommended to the Board following the call for applications, and a two-step review process organized by the County of Santa Clara, Silicon Valley Creates (SVCreates), and the Santa Clara County Library District.  

“SVCreates is a proud partner in Santa Clara County’s Poet Laureate program and has been since its inception.  This is one of several SVCreates programs that accelerate and elevate the arts within our county,” said Connie Martinez, Chief Executive Officer of Silicon Valley Creates. “We are thrilled that Mighty Mike McGee has been selected this year to demonstrate the power of poetry and its relevance to contemporary lives.”

McGee started his career in spoken word, poetry slam and performance poetry in 1998. He is the creator and host of Live Lit Writers Open Mic events, and an organizer of San José Poetry Slam. He is also a board member for Poetry Center San José. 

Through McGee’s travels in North America and Europe, he has seen the lasting impact that performance poetry can have on youth development and creativity. He is an advocate of expanding opportunities for youth to discover the poetic arts, and instilling an early interest, love and appreciation for poetry. 

“I am honored to be appointed as Santa Clara County Poet Laureate and be given the opportunity to sponsor a writing and performance poetry initiative at middle schools and high schools,” Mike McGee said. “We will encourage new writers to explore what poetry means to them, and by showing genuine interest in the voices of young writers, we can foster exponential growth in creative writing throughout the community.” 

McGee will visit schools, libraries and community spaces to introduce performance poetry and offer them a curriculum of poetry for their young community. He is already engaging youth in poetry through a workshop at Willow Glen High School. 

“Mike stands out among poets, bringing a blend of spoken word, humor and performance poetry that is fresh and appealing to youth and adults alike,” said Nancy Howe, Santa Clara County Library District Librarian.  

Mike McGee holds several poetry slam championship titles, and is the first slam poet to win both the American National Poetry Slam Individual Grand Championship (2003) and the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship (2006). 

McGee’s poetry publications include “The Graveyard Shift,” From Page to the Stage; “Open Letter to Neil Armstrong,” Spoken Revolution Redux; and In Search of Midnight: A Collection of Poems by Mike McGee. As a poet, he has toured throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. He has performed at the University of Paris, on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, on CBC Radio & Television, and is a regular on NPR’s Snap Judgment. 

McGee is the fifth poet laureate to be appointed by the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. Nils Peterson was the County’s first Poet Laureate (2009-2011), followed by Sally Ashton (2012-13), David Perez (2014-2015), and Arlene Biala (2016-17).