Sunday, April 26, 2015

Exit Interview: 8th Poet Laureate of Pleasanton, CA. (Me!) sandra, tvgp

who came up with the idea.. the genius idea of the exit interview? -a chance to share some truths which for a variety of reasons cannot be shared while you hold a given position, but which are of great value ultimately.. and so when it no longer matters.. that is; what can they do -fire you? you are already leaving..

ah, now you can tell the truth:

my truth is that I never wanted to be poet laureate. -ever.  are you kidding?  I saw how much time and effort and energy..  I don't have that kind of time, energy.. I'm using everything up just to keep food on the table and gas in the car..

It is, may I remind you "a volunteer position!".  -you don't get paid a dime.

I was perfectly content attending other poet laureate's events as an audience member and sometimes a speaker/reader..  I knew how much prep work to plan, host, market, promote.. Etc. Etc. Went into these events..   -no thank you. 

but that helps explain exactly why I did ultimately step up to the plate.  Because when I moved to pleasanton many years ago.. The writer in me looked for writerly things to do..  and so I attended who knows how many workshops, readings, open mics,..  That other people and poets hosted.  I am a direct beneficiary.

to not step up to the plate, in my mind, would have been to be an all take and no give person; which I am most definitely not.

Charlotte Severin called me and encouraged me to apply.  I have very high respect for Charlotte Severin, a great love and respect for the literary arts..  and I knew it was time to give back..

but! I also knew I was in no position to plan, host, market, promote, organize 30 different workshops like Deborah Grossman..

this position, may I remind.. Is volunteer. No pay. AND.. it all takes place in addition to the job you already have..  and on top of family and other life responsibilities..

I prayed on all of this..  before I set out to..  jump through several hoops which are required for this no pay, volunteer position.

Hoop #1.  application.  Hoop #2. 7 person panel Interview.  /we know how much I love to be interviewed, -write.   As much as I love public speaking..  Hoop #3 seems like there was another interview?  Hoop #4: city council meeting, reading, official approval.

K.  Begin:   I did host a couple workshops, and attend some readings, open mics..

Let me skip here to what Julie Finegan recently said to me..

"You did do some out of the box things as poet laureate."

and what I explained to her is what I will explain here.  I did not set out with an ambition of being out of the box..

Rather, I had a very realistic understanding of what I could and could not do based on the rest of my life; what time and energy I could actually devote.. and I knew I could not host lots of workshops..

"What CAN I do?"

Answering this question for myself turns out to have resulted in  two creative, first time projects, for me, that I am 1. Enormously proud of, and 2. Eternally grateful for..

Kissin The Chocolate Blues.. my onstage valentine for Dr Maya Angelou.. and, 8 shots of ink, my documentary which honors the history of the poet laureate program itself, and recognizes past poet laureates..

So!  None of that possible without green lights from the Firehouse Art Center administrators who I answered to, and collaborated with..

I'm extra grateful because it required a certain patience, generosity, diplomatic guidance, trust on their part, in helping me, a rookie/novice..   what was very basic/familiar/obvious to them, was bran new to me

-how many rehearsals?  what do you want on the stage?

I'm embarrassed to tell you.. I hadn't pre-thought of any of that..   Completely listened and made things up as I went along..

I only knew the big picture things.. The primary vision.  -none of the actual details.. man power.. Time.. Cost... Etc.

So "God Bless And Thank You!" to the FAC administration, tech team, AND to the talented, remarkable people who contributed to these two projects: Faith Alpher & Jessica Raeber (KTCB) and..

Casey Boyden, filmmaker, Jane Berry, production/film consultant (8 shots).   

Although I do not get paid as poet laureate, I do have a budget from which I can pay others..  So, the 1st year.. I pretty much exhausted my budget compensating Faith Alpher..    and! By any other standard she would have received much more money for her time, talent.. But she accepted a lower fee for the greater good..

You can't imagine how much that means to me.

and the 2nd year I pretty much exhausted my budget compensating Casey Boyden..   who we all know is going to have his name attached to great films in the future.. So, how blessed and exciting to contribute to his start and resume..  his talents exceed what this basic/interview format required, so I am grateful he scaled back for the greater good..

that means however, that all the talent, time, effort, expertise Jane berry contributed was.. Like mine.. -voluntary.

I am especially grateful, deeply grateful to Jane for all she did, -on top of having a high demand 50hr. Week plus job, a husband, son.. Family responsibilities..

the only reason 8 shots exists.. Is because Jane was on the team and at the meetings..  A true professional.  She created the spreadsheets, she negotiated Casey's fees on his behalf, she articulated my big, vague, artistic visions into a language the administrators understood and could actually green light.

I don't get the impression Jane believes in God.. But I have news for her.. 

God sent her to me..  that is the only viable conclusion I can come up with..   The literal definition of a God send..

"Thank you!". 

I pass the baton soon, my two year term is nearly complete!  I have satisfied my own internal need to give back and contribute. I can look myself in the mirror; sleep well at night..

and I have these two projects I'm so proud of!   I had all my favorite pleasanton poets on the same stage and that same time!  Jim Ott, Deborah Grossman, kirk ridgeway!  -awesome! 

I knew I couldn't take the baton and raise it.. 

In my 20's and 30's.. I would not have accepted the baton UNLESS I could raise it.

But in my late 40's..  I decided to accept the baton not with the intention of raising it; but! To avoid letting it hit the ground.

-applications were not piling up for the position..  each year the number of applicants was shrinking..

I think its because people started to really see how the expectation for this volunteer position was almost impossible to fulfill..

I think.. We need to lower the expectation, increase the gratitude..

and!  perhaps compensate financially the position itself.  

interesting the message it sends:   jump through these hoops; and then do all these jobs..    -for free.

so.. in between work and family for the past two years I have been doing these other projects on my days off.. Which means I haven't really had a true day off in a long while..  

I am really looking forward to having a true day off very soon.

thoughts and gratitude..   

~sandra harrison kay
pleasanton poet laureate 2013-2015.


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