October 26, 2009
by Lovelle Harris | Staff Writer
The family business: a destiny fulfilled for some and a launching point for others. For Sacramento’s newly anointed poet laureate, adjunct City College and Sacramento State English instructor Bob Stanley 55, it was both.
“I worked in the family business [an auto parts distribution company] for about 30 years,” Stanley says. “So after we sold the business [in 1999] I didn’t want to work for the new owners and I’d always had this hobby.”
Stanley says he’s always had a knack for and interest in poetry.
“I had written poetry, I’d gone to readings, I’d gone to workshops around the country. I mean I loved writing poetry and I loved reading it and talking to people about it.”
For someone who admittedly gravitated toward math and science as a youth, Stanley seemed destined to become a poet.
“I love word play,” Stanley says. “My grandfather played with words, inverted things – I got the gene.”
It was in high school that he first caught the poetic bug.
“I took a class, Introduction to Modern Poetry, and read Whitman, Yeats, Lowell,” Stanley says. “I really liked Yeats.”
Stanley describes his process as free flowing and spontaneous.
“Poetry came more naturally to me,” Stanley says. “I think in fragments, in metaphors.”
For Stanley, bringing poetry to an expanded audience and the community are important to him.
“At the Sacramento Poetry Center, where we do readings every Monday, it’s all about local writers,” Stanley says. “There are lots of great poets in Sacramento.”
“I want to take poetry outside of midtown,” Stanley says. “There’s so much action there already. I want to get people from other areas; I want to get it out into the county.”
Stanley’s also taking poetry to the Internet with County Lines, a showcase of local poets on the Sacramento Municipal Arts Commission Web site.
“I want to be the first online poet laureate,” Stanley says. “I manage [County Lines] for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Council and I might start a blog.”
“Writing inspires me,” Stanley says. “One or two pages into it and things start to pop up.”
Initially Stanley was hesitant to enter himself in the running.
“I’m not Mister Famous Poet,” Stanley says. “I’m just a schlep.”
His decision to submit came largely in part from a local fan of his work.
“My daughter, who’s a writer, Carolyn, urged me to apply,” Stanley says.
Those on the selection committee also seemed to agree with the 26-year-old NYU graduate student.
“His community involvement was really what impressed the committee,” says Anja Aulenbacher, grants and cultural programs coordinator for the SMAC, the organization that manages the poet laureate program through funds received from both the county and city of Sacramento. “His passion for poetry really showed through on his application.”
A contemplative romantic at heart, Stanley found inspiration jazz music and plays the guitar and has taken piano lessons. But it always comes back to the writing.
“How can we best use the written word to say what we need to say?” Stanley says. “I need to write, but I’m still finding my voice.”