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May 16, 2005

Former UCSC writing instructor named state's poet laureate

By Jim Burns

Al Young, who was an instructor in writing during the 1980s and early 1990s at UCSC, was appointed California's poet laureate on May 12 by Governor Schwarzenegger.

Al Young

Al Young

The position of poet laureate was created in 2001 to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists and to call attention to the poets and authors who have influenced California through their creative expression.

"Al Young is a poet, an educator and a man with a passion for the arts," Schwarzenegger said. "His remarkable talent and sense of mission to bring poetry into the lives of Californians is an inspiration."

Young, 65, was born in Mississippi and began publishing poems, stories, and articles in his early teens. Young has lived most of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has taught poetry and fiction writing at a number of universities, including UCSC, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Stanford.

In his first affiliation with UCSC, in 1983-84, Young worked with students in a number of courses, including an early course entitled Writing About Community, in affiliation with what would become the Community Studies Department.

As a visiting associate professor affiliated with the Literature Department in the mid- to late-1980s, Young taught such courses as advanced writing, screenwriting, and the American short story.

A lecturer in literature (creative writing) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Young continued to mentor UCSC students, teaching courses in fiction, screenwriting, and advanced writing. During those years, he also taught a course titled Art and Trash, comparing the works of the greats of American literature to those produced by commercially successful contemporary writers.

As a result of the 2001 state legislation, the California Arts Council solicited nominations from literary groups, public and private arts organizations, literary critics, and universities for the position. A panel of literary professionals subsequently reviewed the candidates, and the names of four nominees, including Young's, were submitted to the governor for consideration.

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