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Commission for Arts and Culture

Ron Salisbury

Ron Salisbury was appointed San Diego’s first Poet Laureate.

Salisbury’s many literary awards include the Main Street Rag’s Poetry Book Prize for his book Miss Desert Inn (2015). A life-long learner, he earned his first degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Poetry from Antioch University in San Francisco in 1983, followed by two Master of Art’s degrees, one in Management from Antioch and the second in Liberal Studies from Mills College in Oakland, Calif. Thirty years later, at the age of 69, he decided to return to school and pursue his true passion and received a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from San Diego State University. Salisbury lives in San Diego’s University City neighborhood.

As a dedicated teacher, Salisbury has taught poetry classes in San Diego and throughout California for more than 40 years. For the past eight years, he has led a weekly poetry workshop at Writer’s Ink, a local nonprofit.

“Since the 7th grade, all I’ve ever wanted to be is a poet,” Salisbury said. “It is a great honor to be chosen as San Diego’s first Poet Laureate. This appointment will empower me to represent the dynamic San Diego I love and promote. It will allow me to teach and encourage poetry to an even higher presence than I already do. I want to give back to the city that adopted me, share my poetry with its people, and share San Diego with the world.”

Salisbury was chosen through a competitive request for qualifications process for the role as poet Laureate. The criteria used to evaluate artists included artistic excellence, education and training as a literary artist, literary recognition, engagement in past projects that involve poetry, and other experiences related to poetry, among others. The Poet Laureate selection committee was composed of Adrian Arancibia, co-founder of poetry and spoken word collective Taco Shop Poets and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Miramar Community College; poet, curator, and columnist Gerda Govine; Veronica Murphy, Artistic Director and co-founder of Write Out Loud; and Gaspar Orozco, poet and Mexican Consulate of Cultural Events in San Diego.

As Poet Laureate, Salisbury spearheaded two projects: Poetry of Resilience and San Diego Poetry Together Challenge.

Public Projects

San Diego Poetry of Resilience

San Diego Poetry of Resilience was a poetry project by San Diego Poet Laureate Ron Salisbury to help inhabitants of our city come together and creatively express themselves through poetry. San Diego Poetry of Resilience created the opportunity to learn about poetry, share poems, and become part of San Diego’s growing community of poets. Poems became part of Poets Mapped, which digitally showcased the work of poets across San Diego. 30 representative poems were selected and published in a special section of the 2021-2022 San Diego Poetry Annual.

San Diego Poetry of Resilience launched on April 2, with the first virtual workshop, which coincided with National Poetry Month. The project featured a free digital poetry workshop series hosted by Salisbury, where the occasional guest teaching poets joined him. Participants were invited to submit poems of resilience after each workshop. The project culminated on October 22, 2021 with a poetry reading and open mic event co-hosted by Salisbury and Michael Klam of San Diego Poetry Annual.

Learn more about San Diego Poetry of Resilience

San Diego Poetry Together Challenge

The San Diego Poetry Together Challenge: A Poetic Response to Pandemic Project was founded in May 2020 by Ron Salisbury, during his appointment as the City of San Diego’s 1st Poet Laureate. Salisbury established the project as a way to engage, document, and encourage a public appreciation of poetry as well as acknowledge the important role creativity could play during the state shelter-in-place order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project called for San Diego poets and writers to share their poems or spoken words and the response was overwhelming. Over 170 San Diegan poets submitted poems. Of the works submitted, Salisbury selected six works to be published on the City’s website. The project culminated with the collection contained here which represents the entirety of the submitted poems. These works were submitted in response to two prompts, one on dreams, and the other on waiting. The works archive a collective experience, a month of local resilience, creativity, and loss - a San Diego poetic testimony to the global pandemic.

View San Diego Poetry Together Compilation Book