Paul Willis, professor of English, has been selected as Santa Barbara Poet Laureate, a position the city established in 2004 to “advance awareness of and appreciation for literary arts and humanities within the greater Santa Barbara community.” He was installed during a public ceremony in City Hall in April.
Willis is thrilled with the two-year position. “I do feel honored, as the past persons in this role have been outstanding poets indeed,” he says. “My honorary duties will include composing poems for civic occasions and organizing literary events in the city.”
Willis, who earned a doctorate in English at Washington State University, has taught at Westmont since 1988. He recently published a revised version of his first novel, “No Clock in the Forest,” together with three sequels, in a single book, “The Alpine Tales.” His most recent collections of poetry are “Rosing from the Dead” (WordFarm, 2009) and “Visiting Home” (Pecan Grove Press, 2008).
Willis also worked with former Santa Barbara Poet Laureate David Starkey to edit “In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare” (University of Iowa Press, 2005).
The announcement from the Santa Barbara City Council coincides with April, National Poetry Month. Willis organized a kick-off event for the month, “The Ever-Living Poets Society: A Reading of Santa Barbara Poets of Days Gone.” He selected the Carrillo Street venue, former home of the Santa Barbara Foundation, because D. H. Lawrence once gave a poetry reading there in the 1920s.
Willis gave the keynote poetry reading at the Windhover Writer’s Festival at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas, in February and read at Fresno Pacific in March.
For five years he has organized “Remembering William Stafford: A Community Reading” in Los Padres National Forest. Stafford won the National Book Award in Poetry in 1963 for his book “Traveling Through the Dark.” One of his formative life experiences took place in Santa Barbara’s backcountry.