Many people in Sonoma County may not be aware they even have a poet laureate, but they just got a new one, and she's a logical fit for the job.
The poet laureate's mission is to promote poetry and local poets, and Santa Rosa's Katherine Hastings has been campaigning for poetry for years, on every platform she could find.
“Poetry is a passion for me,” Hastings said. “I just don't understand why anyone wouldn't love it.”
In 2006, Hastings founded the WordTemple poetry reading series, featuring both nationally known and local poets at several venues, currently at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.
The following year, she started her monthly WordTemple radio series, interviewing poets on Rohnert Park's public station, KRCB. The show is still running, airing at 3 p.m. the third Sunday of every month.
She also founded her own WordTemple publishing operation in 2007, issuing a series of books by various Northern California poets, titled “Small Change.” Her motivation was simple, she said.
“There are a lot more poets than there are publishers for poetry,” she explained.
Raise public profile
The Sonoma County Poet Laureate position was created 16 years ago by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts to raise the public profile of the literary arts, often overshadowed by theater, music and visual arts.
It's not hard to understand why a countywide committee chose Hastings as Sonoma County's eighth poet laureate. Earlier this month, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors confirmed her selection by proclamation.
“Katherine Hastings is an outstanding poet, passionate about poetry and wonderful to work with,” said Linda Galletta, executive director of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. “She has demonstrated her commitment to the literary arts as a poet, publisher and advocate for poetry.”
In 2011, when 70 California parks were threatened with closure, Hastings published “What the Redwoods Know: Poems from the California State Parks,” including work by 14 Northern California poets.