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Quincy Troupe~ Poet Laureate Finalist

UCSD professor among 3 finalists for post of state poet laureate

Writer Quincy Troupe is a finalist to become California's first official poet laureate.

Troupe, a professor at UCSD, is one of three contenders selected by a panel of experts last week from a list of 55 nominees.

The other finalists are Diane Di Prima, a veteran of the Beat era, which began to revolutionize American poetry in the 1950s; and Francisco X. Alarcon, who has earned acclaim for his writings in English and Spanish, and for promoting Chicano and American Indian literature.

Gov. Gray Davis is expected to name one of the three by July, subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

"It would be a great honor, and a great honor for someone from down here in San Diego," Troupe said of the two-year appointment.

The poet laureate's mission is to educate state and civic leaders about the diversity of poetry in California, and to promote it among the state's citizens, especially those who otherwise might have little opportunity to encounter it.

"Poetry is a wonderful instrument to get across ideas and to bring people together, to enlighten them and to make them think about and understand a lot of different things," Troupe said. "It seduced me a long time ago, and it still seduces me."

A two-time National Book Award winner, Troupe, 62, was nominated for the honor by Hugh Davies and Anne Farrell, who are director and development/special-projects director, respectively, of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.

Under the museum's auspices, Troupe since 1993 has presented a yearly music and literary series, Artists on the Cutting Edge: Cross Fertilizations, at Sherwood Auditorium in La Jolla. This year's series will begin Thursday.

"I don't know the other two candidates personally," Davies said. "But I consider it most improbable that you could find someone else with the intellectual vigor of Quincy, as evidenced not only by his published works, but by his extraordinary personality and charisma.

"I think he'd be an ideal spokesperson and role model as the poet laureate, which I really see as being the cultural leader of the state."

Five people have held the title, which has existed since 1915. The state, however, only officially designated the position last year; the previous laureates were named by resolution regardless of whether they had any experience or qualifications.

"Whoever is selected poet laureate, the winner will ultimately be the state of California," said Adam Gottlieb of the California Arts Council in Sacramento, which is overseeing the nomination process. "The person who's chosen is going to be an ambassador of poetry."

That would suit Troupe just fine. He has read his poetry in schools, churches, corporate auditoriums and at the United Nations.

"I have a lot of ideas about what could, and should, happen," he said. "Whoever becomes the poet laureate of the state has to be able to expand the art of poetry and take it into every corner and crevice in the state, and make people understand it's a great, beautiful art that can serve a lot of purposes.

"Poetry can either change people in a positive or negative way, and I'm interested in changing people in a positive way."

A professor of creative writing and American and Caribbean literature at UCSD, Troupe has lived in La Jolla since 1991 with his wife, Margaret Porter-Troupe, who owns an art gallery in Banker's Hill. They have four children; their youngest, Porter, 19, graduated last year from La Jolla High School.

The East St. Louis, Ill., native recently completed his 13th book, "Take it to the hoop, Magic Johnson," about the basketball legend. He won the 1980 American Book Award for his poetry book "Snake-back Solos," and again in 1990 for "Miles: The Autobiography," which he wrote with the late jazz icon Miles Davis.

In 1991, Troupe won a Peabody Award for writing and co-producing "The Miles Davis Project," a nationally syndicated radio series. In 1994 and 1995, he was named Heavyweight Champion of Poetry in the World Poetry Bout in New Mexico.

By George Varga,
Staff Writer April 2, 2002
San Diego Union Tribune

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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