Ron Salisbury
Ron Salisbury. Photo courtesy City of San Diego

San Diego Monday named its first Poet Laureate, who will be an ambassador for poetry, spoken word and literary arts in the city.

Ron Salisbury, a local poet, will serve a two-year term, producing engaging original works inspired by and in response to San Diego.

“Since the seventh grade, all I’ve ever wanted to be is a poet,” he 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.”

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Salisbury will be an ideal ambassador for the arts in the new program, in which he will lead public events and a poetry project to broaden its audience and reach.

“San Diegans have a special story to tell and I can think of no one better than longtime resident Ron Salisbury to tell it,” Faulconer said. “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.”

Salisbury has won multiple literary awards, including the Main Street Rag’s Poetry Book Prize for his book “Miss Desert Inn” in 2015.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Antioch University in San Francisco in 1983, followed by two Master of Arts degrees, one in management from Antioch and the second in liberal studies from Mills College in Oakland. Thirty years later, at the age of 69, he decided to return to school to pursue his true passion, which resulted in a Masters of Fine Arts degree in poetry from San Diego State University.

Salisbury, who lives in the University City neighborhood, 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.

Salisbury was chosen through a competitive request for qualifications process for the role of 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.

The Poet Laureate selection committee was composed of Adrian Arancibia, co-founder of poetry and spoken word collective Taco Shop Poets and an English and creative writing professor at Miramar Community College; poet, curator and columnist Gerda Govine; Veronica Murphy, artistic director and co- founder of Write Out Loud; and Gaspar Orozco, a poet and deputy consul general of Mexico in San Diego.

— City News Service