Tess Taylor

MFA faculty member named poet laureate for her hometown

Published on March 26, 2024
Ashland University

It has finally worked out for Tess Taylor to become poet laureate for her hometown of El Cerrito, California.

“I’d wanted to do this for years but had been traveling a lot,” said Taylor, who has published five books of poetry. “I’m so happy to be able to do this.”

Taylor, a member of the Ashland University MFA program’s Poetry faculty, will start her one-year term as El Cerrito poet laureate on April 1. She will be helping to build El Cerrito High School’s literary magazine.

Being able to connect new communities to poetry and helping students see a path forward in art is what she is most looking forward to with her poet laureate role.

“I hope to establish a mentorship program for emerging writers in El Cerrito,” she said.

El Cerrito is a city of about 25,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area.

“El Cerrito has some of the most diverse public schools in the country,” said Taylor, an El Cerrito resident and native who attended the public schools she will be serving. “It’s a wonderful mix of people, and I love that art and poetry can help each person hear and tell and listen to their own stories and the stories of others.”

For the past several years, Taylor has enjoyed teaching poetry to AU graduate students “who have a lot of hunger and delight in their work.”

“I love that my program lets me connect with students from all over the country and even the world,” Taylor said about teaching for AU.

Christian Kiefer, Ashland’s MFA program director, said Taylor has excelled wherever she has taught poetry and expects that to continue as El Cerrito’s poet laureate.

“Tess is one of the finest, most dedicated educators I know,” Kiefer said. “Her work is of the West, excavating a particular kind of loamy history from the soil. It’s essential work, informing us and brightening our hearts all at once.”

As much as she’s looking forward to being her hometown’s poet laureate, Taylor said she doesn’t plan it to last beyond the end of her term on March 31, 2025.

“I think it’s really nice for lots of people to serve,” she said, “and so I might like to serve in a different location — the country or the state. I think it’s good for the city if the poets rotate through.”