Local poet Jason Magabo Perez has been appointed as the city of San Diego’s Poet Laureate, a post he will hold for two years. 

During the program for Mayor Todd Gloria’s State of the City address, the Clairemont Mesa resident recited his poem “We Draft Work Songs for This City” on stage at the San Diego Civic Theatre (skip to the 17:10 mark above to view).

The Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador for the arts, advocating for poetry, spoken word and literary arts on behalf of the city. He is San Diego’s second Poet Laureate, succeeding Ron Salisbury, who was appointed in 2020. 

Gloria called Perez’s work “profound, innovative and uncompromising.”

Perez, an associate professor and director of Ethnic Studies at Cal State San Marcos, also serves as a community arts fellow at the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies at UC Davis, associate editor for Ethnic Studies Review and a core organizer of the Digital Sala.  

“I’m truly humbled to serve as the second San Diego Poet Laureate,” Perez said. “I’m thrilled to support the expansive poetics and storytelling of our communities in San Diego. Poetry is at its best when it serves as a generative site for mutual empowerment, humility and dignity.” 

Perez’s poems include “This is for the Mostless” and “I Ask About What Falls Away.” His prose and poetry have been featured in several publications, including Witness, the Feminist Wire, the Operating System, Marías at Sampaguitas and Kalfou. 

Perez believes in “poetry for and by the people, in the power of reclaiming our languages and lyrics, in the power of deep listening, and in the power of collective witnessing.”

Perez was selected as the City’s Poet Laureate through a competitive request for qualifications that started in October. Applicants were evaluated on artistic excellence, education and training, literary recognition and engagement in past projects involving poetry.

The selection committee included Alberto López Pulido, a professor at the University of San Diego and city arts commissioner, Anthony Blacksher, a poet and publisher of the San Diego Poetry Annual, and  Amelia Glaser, an associate professor at UC San Diego. 

Note: Featured photo – Poet Jason Magabo Perez at the 2023 State of the City address. Photo credit – Screen shot, City of San Diego, via YouTube