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San Diego Poetry Together Challenge

San Diego's Poet Laureate invites you to participate in San Diego Poetry Together Challenge!


Calling all Poets! The City of San Diego and its Poet Laureate, Ron Salisbury, invite all San Diegans to participate in the Poetry Together Challenge! Ron Salisbury will be sharing a prompt, and the public is invited to respond by submitting a poem or spoken word piece. Select works will be featured along with a poem by Poet Laureate, Ron Salisbury.

Scroll down to see the current prompt, and submit your poem or spoken word piece by midnight the following Sunday for a chance to be featured! Check back to see featured works!

An Open Invitation to San Diegans from Poet Laureate, Ron Salisbury:

Dear San Diego,
Poetry has been used at times of emotional peaks throughout history. We never ask someone to write a short story to read at a friend’s wedding. And poetry seems to more immediately and effectively reach into us in times of danger and crisis. I’ll send out a prompt or idea for you to use. Now is the time to put your fingers on the keyboard or around a pen and we’ll all help each other through poems.
I will select from your poems, a few poems to feature along with my own, and offer you a new prompt. And like this, week by week, poem by poem, we’ll get through this together.

Ron Salisbury
San Diego Poet Laureate


WAITING: How has the concept of waiting changed for you?  For me, waiting has been, mostly a mere step to some end that we anticipate: waiting for the mail to come, the bus to come.  For me, this waiting now seems so different because I don’t know what that end is or what the future holds.  How are you affected by this Waiting?

Prompt 2 release video


We are all waiting…

By Ron Salisbury, San Diego Poet Laureate

At 10:15 this morning, any morning now, we are waiting…
The door to the little patio is open so I can see rain dibbling
puddles on the patio, the air waltzing in cooler and cooler.
We are waiting... 
Not the waiting like before;
on the bench at Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs.  Where is
the 52 bus?  No schedule to check so we don’t know
if it’s late or even running. Waiting for the Christmas
amaryllis from your ex’s aunt who can’t remember
what happened, to blossom. Some years only some
waiting is filled with little hammers,
but now….
for the bioluminescence, exact high tide, check
from the guy, to measure only twice before cutting,
to figure any jumble, a skate board, for the girl
in the black halter to run by at 4:30, and wave. 
For AAA to arrive with the gas, for poetry to mean…..
Waiting; all that plaque between want and does…
But not today. This waiting is shapeless,
the unsettling, nothing outside on the wet lawn,
the no-end perhaps, no idea what after feels like.
That waiting…

Selected Works from Prompt 2:

By Susan Smith

May moon melon-full

    Above the dark pine needles

        Distant sirens wail


Crow tilts his head

    Yellow tape on the swing set

        Just right for my nest

By Joan Gerstein

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Oh, Covid-19, 

How considerate of you to cover

the world, allow Planet Earth to heal. Oh, lethal

bat-birthed bane, imprison us at home, until

greenhouse gas emissions go the way of the dodo.

You show us, oh powerful pathogen, how to drop

pollution levels with ease of coconuts from palms.

Oh, queen of contagion, choke poacher’s breath,

keep coal in their fracked holes, shutter factories

and slaughterhouses. I bow to your potent power,

wear facemasks to lesson your infection

and gloves to keep at bay your bacillus.

You, a mighty microbe of mass murder, and yet,

oh, social spreader of sickness, you mend our planet.

We are mere mortals waiting for your pox to pass.

Oh, toxic troubadour, who has escorted dolphins

to Venice’s canals, coaxed wildlife to venture out,

siphoned chemicals from the seas, before we destroy

you, I beseech you: make us mind the earth.


American Goldfinch              

By ©Romina Espinosa de los Monteros


Despertar otro día

a una nueva realidad,

por segunda vez

soy inmigrante.


La incertidumbre

es como piel quemada,

sin saber cuán profunda 

será la llaga.


Las noticias

son catastróficas,

el afán por leerlas

son como una droga

que calman el miedo.


Antes de empezar

la nueva rutina laboral,

desde casa,

camino al jardín.


Dos migrantes nuevos,

de pecho amarillo,

con pico y cola negra

vuelan de palmera

en palmera.


Forman círculos por el cielo

cantando una balada,

de sonidos indescifrables

pero divinos.


American Goldfinches,

indica una pesquisa.

Jilgueros norteamericanos.


Continúo a la espera,

quizás a una sociedad

más justa, más humana…

No lo sé.


Se escucha otro sonido

al caer dos nísperos.

El jardín susurra,

susurra una verdad,

vale la pena vivir.



DREAMS: During these days of seclusion, the nights are sometimes calm and sometimes not. It may be cramped with everyone here, or somewhat lonely with only you. And the dreams we have are sometimes fine and sometimes not.  What are your Dreams like in these times?

Prompt 1 release video


The Mayor Called

By Ron Salisbury, San Diego Poet Laureate

In his dream, Reggie is dreaming
and the mayor calls,
needs a poem by tomorrow.
Even though vexing,
it made a kind of sense to him, in the dream
he was dreaming, even though
Reggie hasn’t written a poem
for sixty-five years, since the one
to Jeannie Balabus in seventh grade,
intercepted by Mrs. Johnson
who made him read it to the whole class. 
In the morning, Reggie is already confused enough
with the dream of dreaming
without the poem and the mayor.
The mayor called on a land line
which Reggie doesn’t have.
But it was so real!
He thought he might try something
just in case,
turns on his lap top and begins typing,
We miss the mauzy woods of Torrey Pines,
the flaming furze along the Sunset Cliffs.”  
What? I didn’t type that!  Tries again.
“Its neighing cleaves, its gladsome plenty
purling down, ridgy waves, our graver thoughts.”
What is going on?
Oh San Diego, its days adagio, we miss you so.”
The phone rings in the bedroom, Reggie goes to answer,
picks up the receiver.  It’s Mrs. Johnson.

Selected Works from Prompt 1:

By Krysada Phounsiri
Lawn mower buzzing on the
other side of the window
rattles my head
I wake
walk downstairs to the kitchen
where coffee brews
Its steam trails to the altar where smoke
from a lavender scented candle
hovers over the hands
of my Mother
She prays the world heals
and liberates from the outbreak
lifting her hands to her forehead
Eyes closed connecting to Buddha and her angels above
We are awake
But I sit in the kitchen and observe
sip my coffee
like a portal to a dream
I dream of a time when she
can walk to the grocery store
Alone without fearing for
shouts and kicks
That will rattle her head
because everyone Asian must be from
China and carry the “Chinese Virus”
Therefore, a threat     
What a dream today becomes when
one of her children must accompany her
to the grocery store just in case
Had to sit outside
The same Goldfinch sings as if
they now guard the canyon and the sky
beyond the backyard
I think about these times
Feels like Earth looks up to its own sky
Wrapped in the black of space
Wondering if
this is all a dream
I try to read the name of your perfume
By Tania Pryputniewicz
I dodge unmasked walkers on the Silver Strand,
rebreathe stale breaths beneath the pajama fabric
of my mask. Toddlers in oncoming strollers
stare. Yesterday, unmasked, I could have smiled
at them. Sunlight slips over the kestrel sculpture
made of spoons in my father’s house. Anderson Cooper
shows viewers the divot in the haircut he gave himself. Cuomo
broadcasts sweating from basement quarantine. We binge-watch
Joe Exotic, Fleabag, Ozark. The coyotes on the Russian River
yip by night, prehistoric silver sips. People in Marin
howl now too, I’m told. I pull tarot’s Tower card, the Lovers
next. Chile, Iceland, Denmark, India, San Diego, Mexico
and Maine: Facebook Live, Snatum Kaur’s morning circle, guitar
in her arms. We chant, we sing from home: 700, 800, 1k the counter
counts, thread of heart emojis like a diver’s bubbles on the screen,
our upraised palms to sky. For Father on a ventilator. For Auntie
who won’t ever see one. For Grandma living with her two dogs
in Texas. For the pregnant mother in ICU. For the twelve pages
of Boston obituaries. For the ER doctor who took her life. Three
times we hold our breath, once for the self, once for the circle’s
every prayer, a third time for time itself, all beings, every heart
beating despite suspended breath. I dream in perpetual zoom,
gallery view. I see you, propped on pillows, your dresser behind you.
I try to read the name of your perfume, the spines of the books
on your shelf, forget to unmute my audio when my turn to speak,
my house shrunk, a wooden star afloat on a sea the red tide churns
bioluminescent blue, a tsunami’s curling wave at every sill.
I hold my breath, raise my palms to the ceiling, and sing.

Dreams Can Go Viral

By Ron Lauderbach

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this. I should be talking to a psychologist, a priest, or maybe even the police because something is chasing me, and it means to do me harm. So far, I have no evidence, at least none that anyone would believe, but just before I wake up and immediately after, I see robot-like figures about to overtake me, throwing hand grenades filled with Covid-19. I’m hesitant to speak up. I’m afraid people will think I’m nuts but then I consider Jacob dreamed he saw angels climbing ladders to heaven about 3500 years ago, and he’s still pulling that one off and Mary Shelley, while hanging out with Lord Byron a couple hundred years ago, dreamed of creating a laboratory monster and that’s been good for her. Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed up Jekyll and Hyde and E.B. White took twenty years to develop his dream of a talking mouse into Stuart Little. More recently, Steven King on a flight to London, dreamed about a crazy woman who kidnapped her favorite writer and tortured him. His dream became Misery. So, stick around. I’m just waiting for the heavy-duty PPE I’ve ordered. I’ll survive this and publish my thriller.


Participation Guidelines:

  • Anyone living in the San Diego region can participate. (City and County)
  • Poets of all ages are invited to participate.
  • Poems need not be new.
  • Poems must be written by person submitting them.
  • Participants give the City permission to publish and reproduce works.
  • Selected poems will be published on the Commission for Arts and Culture website. All submitted poems will be considered for publication.
  • Selected poets will not be notified, poets should check the website to see if their work was selected.
  • By submitting a poem or performed spoken word (literary artwork) to the City of San Diego (City), you grant the City nonexclusive royalty-free license to reproduce the literary artwork for all noncommercial City educational, public relations, tourism, and arts promotional purposes including, but not limited to, displaying the artwork, reprinting the artwork, creating digital reproductions of the artwork, and displaying, distributing, transmitting such reproductions or images to the general public by any available means. 
  • By submitting this literary artwork to the City you certify that the literary artwork is solely the result of your artistic endeavor.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Written poems must be no longer than one page in length and must be submitted as an attached word document.
  • Performed poems must be no longer than 4 minutes in length and must be submitted as a link in the body of the email.
  • All submissions must be emailed to arts@sandiego.gov by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday after the prompt is posted.
  • Please include the following information with your submission: (*required)
    • Full Name*:
    • Zip Code*:
    • Short Bio (100 words max):

San Diego Poetry Together Challenge Calendar:

Sunday, May 3, 2020 – Prompt 1 released

Sunday, May 10, 2020 - Prompt 1 selected poems due

Sunday, May 17, 2020 – Prompt 2 released, Prompt 1 selected poems published

Sunday, May 24, 2020 – Prompt 2 selected poems due

Sunday, May 31, 2020 – Prompt 2 selected poems published


Ron Salisbury has been appointed San Diego’s first Poet Laureate. Ron Salisbury, San Diego Poet Laureate

“San Diegans have a special story to tell and I can think of no one better than long-time resident Ron Salisbury to tell it,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “With the creation of this new City tradition, I encourage all San Diegans to explore the creativity and culture of our great city and I look forward to seeing our community’s love for the literary arts continue to grow.”

The City’s Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador and advocate for poetry, spoken word, and the literary arts. During the two-year term, the appointed Poet Laureate produces engaging and conceptually rich original works inspired by and in response to San Diego. Charged with cultivating critical thinking, connection, and appreciation of the art form, the Poet Laureate participates in public events and leads a poetry project that broadens the audiences for poetry. Most importantly, the Poet Laureate is the City’s poet, a civic poet - the people’s poet, whose role is to elevate an already thriving literary arts scene and enhance San Diego’s cultural richness.

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.

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