Alta Vista High School invited the Santa Clara County poet laureate Sally Ashton to speak today, February 7. This honor is given to an exemplary poet in the Santa Clara County district every two years, as the applicants are judged by the Ats Council of Silicon Valley.
Sally Ashton, who is a poet, writer and teacher, was given this honor as the poet laureate on April 1, 2011. This award first began in four years ago in 2008.
This event was an effort to make poetry and the arts accessible to the local community. To achieve this goal, Ashton has various duties as the recipient of the poet laureate. This includes serving as an advocate for poetry, leading a community project that makes poetry more accessible, and elevating poetry in the awareness of Santa Clara Country residents.
Throughout the event, the room was still and quiet, as the audience listened, mesmerized by her poetry and every word she spoke. In a room with a small stage, few people sat scattered throughout the chairs that were laid out in rows. Going in, the atmosphere was welcoming, with everyone seemingly entranced by Ashton’s poetry.
When the readings ended, however, there was time for the audience to ask their questions for Ashton. Asked about how her passion for poetry started, Ashton admitted that she had been an adult with kids when she had encountered this love for the particular type of writing.
“I had read a lot of poetry in school and then I was in a class where the teacher was playing Simon Garfunkel songs and he had said that was poetry and it seemed like poetry,” Ashton said. “I reconnected with this class and when was exposed to this, I just thought, ‘Wow!’ That’s when I wanted to [write poetry].”
Scattered throughout the audience were Alta Vista students who attended the event to learn more about the life of an accomplished poet like Ashton. Hoping to find out more about the struggles of an artist such as a poet, an Alta Vista student asked how Ashton has dealt with the criticism and rejection.
“It is hard to be any kind of artist because there is a balance between doing what feels right and then what people like,” Ashton said. “It is something you have to learn to deal with … You have to kind of crazy to go into poetry because you are just going to be up against a lot of rejection.”
At the end of the poetry reading, a few of the current Alta Vista students read one of Ashton’s poems dramatically, which ended the event on a high note. It is hoped that events like Ashton’s poetry reading can spark interest in the fine arts in our local community.