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Conversations With Poets

Co-sponsored with San Diego Poetry Annual and the San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild 

A series of intimate and captivating one-on-one video interviews with host Michael Klam and nine local poets about their work, their process, their influences, and the vibrant poetry literary scene in San Diego. Eavesdrop on smart literary artists engaged in compelling discussions about what inspires them about the art form.  

Conversations with Poets 2023

About the Host of the Series

The host and on-site director of Conversation with Poets 2023 is well known local poet Michael Klam.

Headshot of poet Michael Klam

Michael Klam is executive editor and associate publisher of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He co-edits the bilingual edition of SDPA with partner Olga Garcia. Klam hosts Central Library’s Conversations with Poets, a series of video and audio interviews, featuring San Diego’s finest poets. Klam co-edited the San Diego Writers, Ink anthology, A Year in Ink, Volume 6. His book, Emma and the Buddha Frog (Puna Press, 2007), was a San Diego Book Awards finalist. His most recent collections of poetry and visual art collaborations are The Cheapest Flight to Paradise (Puna Press, 2018) and Anything for a Dull Moment (Garden Oak Press, 2020).

Meet the Poets

Natasha Hooper

Natasha Hooper | National Slam Champion and host of the San Diego Poetry Slam, Natasha Hooper discusses winning the National Poetry Slam with Rudy Francisco and the ever-growing popularity of SD Poetry Slam

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Natasha Hooper is an international poet, spoken word artist, activist, and host who started writing poetry in high school. She earned the title of No. 2 poet in the world at the 2018 Individual World Poetry Slam, after winning the 2017 National Poetry Slam with her team San Diego Poetry SLAM. Her work has been showcased on national and international outlets such as Al Jazeera, All Def Poetry, TEDx and Middle East Eye, among others. She’s also been featured at prominent venues spanning from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, to the South American Business Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hooper also does what she can to promote and effect change as an active member of her community, where she works to bring awareness and resources to those in need. Most of her poems can be found on YouTube by searching her name.

Gill Sotu

Gill Sotu | Gill Sotu ponders on his journey from the U.S. Navy to the TEDX stage and beyond

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Gill Sotu is a navy veteran, poet, playwright, musician, DJ, and performing artist.  He is a two-time Grand Slam Poetry Champion, two time Raw Performing artist of the year, and a five time TEDx San Diego presenter. Currently, he is a teaching artist and a commissioned playwright with the Old Globe Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse, a guest teaching artist with the SD School of Creative and Performing Arts and New Village Arts Theatre, and the official Poet in Residence for the San Diego Writer's Festival.  A two-times Winner of Toastmaster’s “Best Speaker Award” and "Inspirational Award", Gill has been featured multiple times on KPBS, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Voice of San Diego, Fox 5 San Diego, the Coronado Times, and the VCReporter, as well as many other news outlets. 

Anoushka Majumder

Anoushka Majumder | Anoushka Majumder talks poetry and philosophy and how poetry helped her get through the COVID pandemic as well as the everyday stresses of middle school

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Anoushka Majumder is a spirited 14-year-old with the heart of a poet and a resident of Scripps Ranch. Her poems have a philosophical outlook that reveals her deep appreciation for all aspects of life. Outside of poetry, she has been honing her literary skills with numerous short stories and personal anecdotes. She is fortunate to have been a part of collaborative efforts with Write Out Loud as a part of their Let Your Voice Be Heard program. When she’s not daydreaming or writing, Anoushka is curled up with a good book, practicing piano, swimming, or spending time with her BFF (her younger sister). 

Robt O'Sullivan

Robt O'Sullivan | SD Poetry Slam originator and host of Poets, INC (Inland North County), Robt O reflects on the origins of Poetry Slam in San Diego and the cross-fertilization of written and visual art

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Robt O'Sullivan is the (retired) founder of the San Diego Poetry Slam (1998 thru 2002) and hosted various other open mic poetry readings around metro San Diego from 1997 thru 2007, producing the Drift Wood Highway series of county poetry anthologies.  Since 2007 he has been hosting the Poets INC (Inland North County) monthly literary series for the Escondido Arts Partnership, for whom he also serves as a Board member, and is editor and publisher of the annual Summation Anthology of Poetry+Art, now in its 15th year. He also serves as a regional editor for the San Diego Poetry Annual, since 2008, and is a poetry judge for the annual Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

Margarita Pintado Burgos

Margarita Pintado Burgos | PLNU’s Margarita Pintado Burgos discusses her emergence as one of Puerto Rico's leading poets and how her new life in San Diego is transforming her work

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Margarita Pintado Burgos (Puerto Rico) is the author of Ficción de venado/ Fiction of the Deer, Una muchacha que se parece a mí/ A Girl Who Looks Like Me (Institute of Puerto Rican Culture Poetry Book Award), Proyecto inacabado de la ruina/ An Unfinished Project of Ruins (Spanish- Portuguese) and Simultánea, la marea/ Simultaneous, the tide. Her writings have been published in numerous journals and book anthologies. She codirects the poetry website Distrópika. In 2022, she was awarded the Letras Boricuas fellowship, given by the Mellon Foundation, which seeks to promote and elevate the voices of emergent and established writers. Margarita teaches Spanish and Literature at Point Loma Nazarene University. 

Margarita Pintado Burgos (Puerto Rico), es autora de los poemarios Ficción de venado (2012), Una muchacha que se parece a mí (Premio de Poesía del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña), Proyecto inacabado de la ruina (español- portugués) y Simultánea, la marea. Sus escritos han sido publicados en múltiples antologías y revistas. Codirige el espacio de poesía Distrópika. En el 2022 recibió la beca Letras Boricuas, de la fundación Mellon. Es profesora de español y literatura en Point Loma Nazarene University.

Jason Magabo Perez

Jason Magabo Perez | San Diego’s 2nd poet laureate, Jason Magabo Perez, and SDPA’s Michael Klam discuss bringing poetry to the people and the new laureate’s influences, from Filipina poet Mila Aguilar to the golden age of West Coast hip-hop

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Jason Magabo Perez serves as the Poet Laureate of San Diego 2023-24. Perez is the author of two hybrid collections of poetry and prose: Phenomenology of Superhero and This is for the mostless. Perez has also written and performed three staged, multimedia performance works: The Passion of El Hulk Hogancito (Kularts, Inc.); You Will Gonna Go Crazy (Kularts, Inc.); and Blue Bin Improvisations: Performing Yonie's Archive (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and MexiCali Biennial). Perez's work has also appeared in publications such as Witness, The Feminist Wire, Entropy, Marías at Sampaguitas, and Interim. Previous recipient of a Challenge America Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, former Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Art and Thought, and a founding member of the San Diego-based Freedom Writers Spoken Word Collective, Perez has been a featured performer at notable venues such as the National Asian American Theatre Festival, International Conference of the Philippines, San Francisco Public Library, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Galoka, and La Jolla Playhouse. Perez is an Associate Editor of Ethnic Studies Review, Community Arts Fellow at Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, and a core organizer with The Digital Sala. Currently, Perez is an Associate Professor and Director of Ethnic Studies at California State University, San Marcos.

Anthony Azzarito and Sunny Rey

Sunny Rey and Anthony Azzarito | Poetic power duo Sunny Rey and Anthony Azzarito, and SDPA’s Michael Klam talk about the ever-popular Poets Underground movement of poetic misfits and rebels, as well as the many ways art impacts nearly every aspect of their lives together

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The poetry duo of Sunny Rey and Anthony Azzarito presents knowledge, life lessons, and truth through an unique lens. Between the two, the level of experience and productive output is immense including the couple's very own book publishing company Poets Underground Press LLC, the hosting of Poets Underground open mic and events, Sunny's three published works of poetry and Anthony’s single book of poetry, as well as their published anthology Poets Underground Anthology: Volume One. Their newly established 501c3 non-profit organization, Poets 4 the People, addresses healing through the literary arts. They have their hands dipped into community outreach programs, college presentations, creative writing workshops, and a widespread variety of poetry performances throughout San Diego and beyond. This humbled pair of poets never strays away from using their expertise in writing techniques to impact anyone and everyone for the better.

Adrián Arancibia

Adrián Arancibia | Adrian Arancibia traces the roots of the Taco Shop Poets from the streets of San Diego to the world stage and how, as the owner of Twiggs Coffeehouse, he hopes to empower future generations of San Diego poets

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Poet, author, critic, and community business owner Adrián Arancibia is a founder of the seminal Chicano/Latino performance poetry collective Taco Shop Poets. Born in Iquique, Chile, Arancibia is the co-editor of the Taco Shop Poets Anthology: Chorizo Tonguefire. He has authored the collection of poetry titled Atacama Poems and The Keeper/El guardador, Poems of Exhaustion. A UCSD Literature Ph.D., he currently works as a professor of English and Creative Writing at Miramar Community College and is a member of the school board of the Sweetwater Union High School District. His creative work depicts and comments on the lives of immigrants, while his critical work focuses on literature and its relation to social spaces and popular culture.

Deborah Ramos

Deborah Ramos | OB native Deborah Ramos looks back on her artistic journey from the Love-ins in Balboa Park to her ongoing role as host of Poetry at the Grove

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Deborah Ramos, a San Diego artist and poet, is the author of From the Earthen Drum of my Body. Ms. Ramos is a graduate of San Diego State University, where she studied art, textiles, costume design and history of theatre. All roads ultimately led Deborah to be an educator for over 15 years, working with Special Needs students. Deborah writes about the sacred feminine, primal desires, this crumbling earth, roadkill and her cats. Her poetry has appeared in SageWoman, Rattlesnake Press, Dancing Goddess, National Beat Anthology, Border Voices, River of Earth and Sky, Literary Sexts, San Diego’s Writers Ink, and more. Deborah’s creative life includes traveling, writing, exhibiting her art and photography, as well as hosting Poets at the Grove readings in Balboa Park.

Lee Herrick

Lee Herrick California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick and SDPA's Michael Klam discuss California's grit and beauty and why it's an ideal place for poetry.

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Lee Herrick is the Poet Laureate of California. He is the author of three books of poems: Scar and Flower, Gardening Secrets of the Dead, and This Many Miles from Desire. He served as City of Fresno Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. His poems have appeared widely in literary magazines, anthologies, and textbooks including the Bloomsbury Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, the Normal School, the Poetry Foundation, ZYZZYVA, Seeds from a Silent Tree: Writing by Korean Adoptees, Highway 99: A Literary Journey Through California’s Great Central Valley, The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems from the San Francisco Bay Watershed, Naming the Lost: The Fresno Poets—Interviews and Essays, One for the Money: The Sentence as Poetic Form, Indivisible: Poems of Social Justice, Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, and HERE: Poems for the Planet, among others. Herrick teaches at Fresno City College and at University of Nevada Reno at Lake Tahoe. He is the 10th California Poet Laureate, and the first Asian American to serve in the role. 

Conversations with Poets 2021

About the Host and Director of the Series

The host and on-site director of Conversation with Poets 2021 are well known local poets Michael Klam and Anthony Blacksher.

Ant Black - Director of Conversations with Poets

Blacksher, known as Ant Black in performance poetry circles, earned a PhD from Claremont Graduate University. He is a professor at San Bernardino Valley College. His performance poetry has been posted on YouTube and has appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annual. He serves on the board of directors and Vice President of the San Diego Entertainment + Arts Guild (SDEAG), the local 501(c)(3) arts non-profit that sponsors the annual. He also serves as a workshop facilitator for the KSDPA.  He’s the publisher of San Diego Poetry Annual.

Michael Klam - Host of Conversation with Poets

Klam is the executive editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual (SDPA), host of Conversations with Poets at SDPL, a partner with Border Voices and Broken Anchor Poetry, and co-editor of Pozol, the upcoming bilingual edition of SDPA. His most recent collection of poetry, published by Garden Oak Press in 2020, is called Anything for a Dull Moment, and his two previous collections, both published by Puna Press, are Emma and the Buddha Frog and The Cheapest Flight to Paradise. Michael serves on the board of the San Diego Entertainment + Arts Guild. Visit for more info.

Meet the Poets

Karla Cordero - Conversation with Poets

Karla Cordero | Karla Cordero on Teaching & Creating Space for Students

Karla Cordero is a descendant of the Chichimeca people from Northern Mexico, a Chicana poet, educator, and ARTtivist, raised along the borderlands of Calexico, CA. She is a three-time Pushcart nominee and offered fellowships from VONA, Macondo, CantoMundo, The Loft Literary Center, Community of Writers and Pink Door Writing Retreat. She currently serves as a Professor of Creative Writing and English at MiraCosta and San Diego City College. 

Sharon Elise - Conversations with Poets

Sharon Elise | A Short Lesson on Sociopoetics with Sharon Elise

Sharon Elise is a professor and department chair of sociology at California State University, San Marcos. Her teaching and research center on critical race studies, black studies, black feminism, intersectionality, women of color and sociopoetics. A published poet, she brings her sociological insight to poetry and poetics to sociology.

Rudy Francisco - Conversations with Poets

Rudy Francisco | Speak! Rudy Francisco talks poetry with Michael Klam

Rudy Francisco is an American spoken word poet and author He has won several Poetry Slams and written six books of poetry: Getting Stitches, Scratch, No Gravity, No Gravity Part II, Helium, and I'll Fly Away. He made an appearance on TV One's Verses and Flow and performed his spoken-word poem "Complainers" as well as "Rifle" on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Olga Garcia - Conversations with Poets

Olga GarcíaThe Influence of Grandmothers & Becoming a Poet

Olga García is a bilingual poet, physicist and mathematician and editor of the bilingual San Diego Poetry Annual. She is a member of Haiku San Diego Study Group. Under the pseudonym enriKetta luissi, she has written a novel: El Peso de los Ovarios, and 10 poetry books: Ostrich Sky, Disclosed, In Vitro, Poetica Mathematica, Binaria, Dark Matter,  IIE, Re-Versed, Emily and Visitaciones. Her poetry is published monthly in Supersimetría, a section of Peregrinos y sus Letras, a literary online magazine.

Katie Manning - Conversations with Poets

Katie Manning | Katie Manning in Conversation with Michael Klam

Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other (Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, 2016) and five chapbooks, including 28,065 Nights (River Glass Books, 2020). Her writing has been published in American Journal of Nursing, The Lascaux Review, New Letters, Poet Lore, So to Speak, Verse Daily, and many other journals and anthologies. 

Ron Salisbury - Conversations with Poets

Ron Salisbury | Poet Laureate Ron Salisbury sits with Michael Klam

Ron Salisbury is San Diego’s first Poet Laureate. The City’s Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador and advocate for poetry, spoken word, and the literary arts. As a life-long learner and 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. 

Jeff Walt - Conversations with Poets

Jeff WaltJeff Walt on The Kowit, Poetry & More

Jeff Walt was born in rural Pennsylvania among a community of coal miners, brick-layers, and railroad workers.  His poems have appeared in journals such as Los Angeles Review, Alligator Juniper, Cimarron Review, The Sun, Connecticut Review, Inkwell, New Millennium Writings, The Good Men Project, Harpur Palate, Cream City Review, and Slipstream.  His book, Leave Smoke (Gival Press, 2019), was awarded the 2020 Housatonic Book Award given by the Western Connecticut State University MFA Program “…to promote excellent writing, to identify authors who serve as professional role models for writing students…. “ Jeff is the Program Coordinator for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize sponsored by the San Diego Art & Entertainment Guild and a Regional Editor for the San Diego Poetry Annual.  

Ted Washington - Conversations with Poets

Ted Washington | Ted Washington and Michael Klam Talk It Out 

Ted Washington is an artist, author, poet and reluctant businessman. He now lives in San Diego, after spending time as an apprentice draftsman for a beer brewery in St. Louis, an IRS employee in Springfield, MO, a retail sales representative in Denver, and temporarily homeless vagabond turned baker on the beaches of Venice. Ted is the founder of Puna Press and the performance group Pruitt Igoe. Pruitt Igoe was awarded a Synergy Foundation grant and performed in Harlem. Ted Washington won the BRAND 37 purchase award, with the Glendale Library acquiring one of his artworks for their permanent collection. He is the cofounder and host of Palabra, a reading series held twice monthly in San Diego.

Ying Wu - Conversations with Poets

Ying Wu | A Scientist Talks Poetry

Ying Wu is a poet and cognitive scientist, and host of the Gelato Poetry reading series in San Diego. She is also a proud member of the editorial team of Kids! San Diego Poetry Annual. More examples of her work can be found online at Poetry and Art at the San Diego Art Institute and in Writers Resist, as well as in the material world at the San Diego Airport and in print journals, such as the Clackamas Literary Review. Ying currently studies insight and problem solving at UC San Diego.

Ameerah Holliday

Ameerah HollidayGrace note with Ameerah Holliday

Ameerah Holliday is a dancer and self-proclaimed poetess. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from San Diego State University. Holliday currently serves as a associate agent with the Serendipity Literary Agency and is the social media manager for Ebb & Flow Publications. She is also the editorial director for the San Diego Poetry Annual and Editor for Kids! San Diego Poetry Annual.

Featured on Listeners' Advisory Podcast

Season 1 Episode 9 - Conversations With Poets & Robert Frost Society

Listeners’ Advisory: The San Diego Public Library Podcast | Season 1 Episode 9 - Conversations With Poets & Robert Frost Society

In this episode, podcast host Bob Surratt sits down with Michael Klam and Dr. Anthony Blacksher, co-creators of Conversations with Poets, a new 8 part poetry series made in partnership with the City of San Diego’s Commissions for Arts & Culture. They discuss their beginnings in poetry, San Diego’s new poet laureate, and what to expect from Conversations with Poets. Also, co-host Scott Ehrig-Burgess catches up with poets Jim Hurley and Robert Hass to discuss the arrival of the new Robert Frost Society collection at SDPL.

Michael Klam and Dr. Anthony Blacksher