Palm Desert is celebrating 50 years since its incorporation and to celebrate the golden anniversary, they have named Lori Davis the city’s first ever Poet Laureate.
Davis, a poet, artist, and educator, earned her master’s in creative writing in 2012 through UC Riverside’s Low-Residency MFA program, based out of the UCR Palm Desert campus.
This inaugural 2023-24 position highlights Davis’ 30-year career as a local poet. One of her immediate assignments is to write a city poem to be read Nov. 18, during the city’s 50th anniversary celebration.
“Being named poet laureate was a gift that fell from the sky,” said Davis, a retired Xavier College Preparatory English teacher and author of two chapbooks. She dove into art as a child, discovering a love for writing in her early 30s, she said.
Davis is committed to being an ever-learning student of poetry, she said. Her passion for written and spoken word has taken her around the world, including to study Inuit poetry in Greenland and to Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.
Most people shy away from poetry because many of their first encounters — likely in grade school — were lessons with strict rules, having to rhyme and follow rigid forms, Davis said. But she wants to change that perception and allow everyone to experience communication through poetry.
“This is such a great opportunity to reeducate and excite people about poetry. I want to help reconstruct what they think they know about poems,” Davis said. “Poems are simply vehicles for communicating emotion. There is no secret code, wrong or right answers. I’m excited to share with people that poetry isn’t as scary as we’ve been led to believe.”
Appointing a poet laureate was a natural extension of Palm Desert’s longstanding commitment to provide residents with cultural enrichment through cultural arts programs, art contests, concerts in the park, and support of educational programs at the McCallum Theater, said Palm Desert Mayor Kathleen Kelly.
“Poetry effectively paints a picture using words and has the power to draw us all into our shared human experience. We were pleased to appoint Lori Davis as our first Poet Laureate from a very competitive group of applications,” Kelly said.
Davis was among the first UCR Low-Residency MFA program cohorts, but for decades has been an essential part of the arts community in the desert, said Tod Goldberg, UCR Low-Residency MFA program director.
“I can't imagine a better person to take this role on and to define it for future Poet Laureates,” Goldberg said. “We look forward to welcoming Lori back to our next MFA residency — our 15-year anniversary — where she'll be performing a brand new poem as part of the celebration.”