In July 2018, three of Santa Barbara’s Poets Laureate will be traveling to Ireland. Participating poets are David Starkey (2009-11), Paul J. Willis (2011-13), and Chryss Yost (2013-15).
The poets will participate in readings and festivals in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland including the Earagail Arts Festival and the Tread Softly Festival, and appearances at Blakes in the Hollow Pub in Enniskillen with Fermanagh Writers, Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, Long Valley Bar in Cork City, and Dick Mack’s Pub in Dingle.
Gunpowder Press is a media sponsor for this event. In 2015, Gunpowder published What Breathes Us: Santa Barbara’s Poets Laureates, 2005-2015, including work by all of the traveling poets. (Poet bios are excerpted from What Breathes Us)
About the Poets
David Starkey directs the Creative Writing Program at Santa Barbara City College, where he is Professor of English. He has published seven full-length collections of poetry, most recently It Must Be Like the World (Pecan Grove, 2011), Circus Maximus (Biblioasis, 2013) and Like a Soprano (Serving House, 2014), an episode-by-episode revisioning of The Sopranos TV series. In addition, over the past twenty-eight years he has published more than 400 poems in literary journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, American Scholar, Antioch Review, Barrow Street, Georgia Review, Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry East, Southern Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Southern Poetry Review. Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief (Bedford/St. Martin’s) will soon be in its third edition and is currently one of the best-selling creative writing textbooks in North America.
Reviewing Starkey’s work in The Georgia Review, Paul Zimmer praised his “wonderful language” and “amazing lines,” concluding, “Starkey is an entertaining and resourceful poet.” David Kirby wrote that “the great philosophers weave in and out of these poems, hand in hand with the great criminals, and David Starkey is a step behind them, missing nothing.” And Eloise Klein Healy found Starkey’s poems to be “awash with reports from the senses and in full-throated song about it all. Wise, witty, and wide-ranging, this is poetry that will reward the reader with the kind of delight one feels in the face of masterwork.”
Paul Willis is a professor of English at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where he has taught creative writing and British Renaissance literature since 1988. With David Starkey, he edited the anthology In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare (University of Iowa Press, 2005). His work in creative nonfiction is Bright Shoots of Everlastingness: Essays on Faith and the American Wild (WordFarm, 2005), and his three full collections of poems are Visiting Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2008), Rosing from the Dead (WordFarm, 2009), and Say This Prayer into the Past (Cascade Books, 2013). He is also the author of an eco-fantasy quartet, The Alpine Tales (WordFarm, 2010), portions of which were previously published as separate novels by Avon Books.
Willis’s poems and essays have appeared in well over a hundred journals, including Poetry, Image, and Wilderness, and have also been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 1996 (Scribner’s), The Best Spiritual Writing 1999 (HarperSanFrancisco), The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 (Houghton Mifflin), and The Best Christian Writing 2006 (Jossey-Bass). More recently his poems have been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac.
His poetry chapbook The Deep and Secret Color of Ice was selected for the Small Press Poetry Prize in 2002 by Jane Hirshfield, who said of his work, “Paul Willis’s poems give off a multifaceted, sharp-edged beauty, akin to the light that sometimes glints from the edges of leaves after rain. They look to the places where unexpected treasures lie quietly hidden—a childhood illness, a set of old wooden bleachers, a Sierra Juniper’s berries—and bring that treasure richly forward, into a mature, and maturing wisdom.” His website is pauljwillis.com
Chryss Yost is a lifelong Californian who has lived in Santa Barbara since 1990. She attended Santa Barbara City College as a re-entry student before transferring to UCSB, where she majored in English and minored in professional writing and is currently completing a Ph.D. in Education. She has received awards for her business writing, fiction, and poetry. Her poems have been set to music and she is a frequent collaborator with artists and galleries: she has written poems on request for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the County Arts Commission, the Museum of Natural History, and Sullivan Goss Gallery. Her poem “Furious Bread” was selected for the 2014 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award by Patricia Smith.
Since publishing her first poems in a national journal in 1997, Yost has published two fine-press chapbooks and has co-edited major poetry anthologies, including California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (co-edited with California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia and Jack Hicks). While serving as Poet Laureate, her first full-length book, Mouth & Fruit, was published by Gunpowder Press. She has since become a co-editor at the press, which is named to honor Barbara of Nicomedia, patron saint of gunpowder.
California poet laureate Al Young wrote: “Mouth & Fruit—what a hearty debut! If ever there lived a hands-on poet, her name is Chryss Yost. Wired with feeling and touch, reverie and thought, anger and hunger, these sleek poems dart, dive, sizzle, and sometimes sting.” And Colorado poet laureate Dave Mason said, “Chryss Yost’s poems are like the coastal light of California, so brightly made you almost miss the grief between the lines. This is poetry of warm intelligence, sensuality and grace.” Her website is chryssyost.net