Orange County's First Poet Laureate Sets Her Own Agenda

Natalie Graham is Orange County's first poet laureate not just because of her evocative and widely appreciated poetry, but because of her fervent belief that her work, and the work of all artists, needs to interact with its community.

"Since I moved here eight years ago, so much of the work that I've done involved going into communities and creating spaces for poetry and other art forms like painting and photography," said Graham, associate professor and department chair of Cal State Fullerton's African American studies department. "I really like the idea of integrating art. It's really exciting for me to have this platform."

The position of poet laureate was created by LibroMobile Arts Cooperative in partnership with Orange County Public Libraries and the National Youth Poet Laureate Program. The Aug. 28 announcement of Graham's appointment also named Tina Mai, 16, of Newport Beach as Orange County's youth poet laureate. Graham and Mai were selected by a panel of judges that included author and LibroMobile founder Sarah Rafael García, OCPL librarians and Orange County-based community advocates.

Graham's community-oriented approach seems well suited to the purposes and philosophy of the program. "The goals of the (poet laureate) program are to inspire residents through transformative community engagement and the positive impact of poetry; provide opportunities to engage in literary arts and write or perform poetry; bring poetry to a variety of settings in the community; and ultimately support a civic and literary leader for generations to come," said a statement from Orange County Public Libraries in April announcing the creation of the position.

“Natalie and Tina were chosen not only because of their polished, timely and necessary poetic voice, but because their work elevates the intersection between artistic excellence and social justice in a region that is 60% people of color … where most literary and arts institutions do not reflect the majority,” Garcia said in a statement announcing the selection.

In response to the Delta variant of COVID-19 and the latest health and safety guidance, many major O.C. performing arts venues and organizations have announced that guests at their events will be required to wear masks and confirm that they are vaccinated in order to attend. Be sure to check directly with the venue for their requirements before going. The arts in Orange County are re-awakening, but your cooperation and safe participation as audience members is essential! Arts Orange County is proud to recommend a variety of both in-person and virtual ways to bring the arts into your life. 


Autumn Moon Festival

The Bowers Museum is making a return to live, in-person family festivals with this celebration of the traditional holiday observed in China and many other Asian cultures  DETAILS »


National Dance Day

Julianne and George Argyros Plaza at Segerstrom Center for the Arts is the local host for this nationwide, interactive celebration of dance for everybody, with performances and workshops that will inspire you to get moving  DETAILS »


Newport Beach Library Programs

The Library continues to offer a robust series of virtual programs that give you the opportunity to broaden your creative hobbies and your literary horizons - all for free  DETAILS »


Art Crawl Experience

This edition of Anaheim's art walk around the Center Street Promenade will feature 70's music and a free screening of the family movie classic "My Girl"  DETAILS »


Tribute to Johnny Cash

The life story and unforgettable music of "The Man in Black" is brought to life in this tribute concert coming to Brea's Curtis Theatre  DETAILS »

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Arts Orange County builds appreciation of, participation in and support for the arts and arts education throughout Orange County. Event information provided by SparkOC, an Arts OC program.