Aerospace engineer, private pilot and Menlo Park resident Lisa Rosenberg has been named the new poet laureate of San Mateo County. Her two-year term begins Jan. 1, 2017, and she succeeds Caroline Goodwin, who was appointed as the county's first poet laureate in 2013.
The poet laureate has duties as an ambassador and advocate for poetry and the arts in general and is expected to contribute to the county’s poetic and literary legacy "through public readings and participation in civic events," the application says.
Four times a year, the poet laureate opens a Board of Supervisors meeting with a poem, in practice an original poem, according to the office of Supervisor Warren Slocum, co-chair of the San Mateo County Poet Laureate Advisory Committee.
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Ms. Rosenberg, 54, has had her poems published in anthologies and poetry journals and comes to the art from a Silicon Valley career in aerospace engineering with Lockheed Martin Corp. She is not currently employed, but her Lockheed career involved work on solar cells for spacecraft, including devices used by NASA and the International Space Station, she said. She has a private pilot's license.
Aerospace engineering runs in the family: Both her father and grandfather were aerospace engineers with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and she is married to an aerospace engineer, she said. The couple have one daughter.
A Wallace Stegner poetry fellow at Stanford University, Ms. Rosenberg has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of California at Davis and a master's degree in creative writing from Boston University. The focus of her poetry tends to be landscapes and nature, she said.
Asked about her interest in writing poems, Ms. Rosenberg replied that, "on some level, it's really just an artistic impulse. It intrigued me as a really enjoyable challenge." Her artistic interests include dance, music and theater, but poetry "has been kind of the ongoing thread, I guess, since high school," she said.
A would-be poet laureate applies for the position to the Poet Laureate Advisory Committee, which makes a recommendation to Board of Supervisors, the appointing body. Ms. Rosenberg said she found out about the opening a week before the application deadline.
"I thought about it," Ms. Rosenberg said. "I thought 'Wow, this sounds like exactly the kind of thing I want to do.' It's a more formal and official venue for doing things that I already enjoy."
Part of the attraction is San Mateo County's physical and cultural diversity, she said. "You can be in a very small space geographically and find a very big spread in terms of variety. That leads to a lot of artistic possibilities," she said. "We really are blessed with a broad spectrum."
Supervisor Slocum referred to Ms. Rosenberg as a "scientist poet" with a unique perspective that will bridge the communities of art, science and technology.
"All of our eight applicants were amazing poets which speaks to a hallmark of our thriving literary arts community in San Mateo County," Mr. Slocum said in a statement. "Lisa has so much talent and passion for her craft. We look forward to her serving as an ambassador and role model to poets and in our community."
Click here to read some of Ms. Rosenberg's poems.