Poetry is artistic language meant to stir your imagination... it can also be a little intimidating.
Nevada's new poet laureates want to change that.
Heather Lang Cassera will become Clark County's poet laureate on June 1, and Pan Pantoja is Reno's 2019 poet laureate.
“The role of a poet laureate can vary a little bit depending on where it is, but part of the role of poet laureate here in Clark County is to be a poetry ambassador,” Lang Cassera said.
In addition to her new job as a poetry ambassador, Lang Cassera is a creative writing teacher at Nevada State College but she turns to poetry at specific times in her writing process.
“When I turn to poetry is when I want to explore something or when I’m looking for some sense of discovery,” she said, “When I want to better understand something about the world, that’s when I really dive into poetry.”
Poetry is also not Pantoja's only form of expression. He is a visual artist and an art professor in Sqaw Valley.
Pantoja said he doesn't look to write or create something. Instead, creativity comes to him.
“I don’t think I turn to anything," he said, "I think it absolutely turns straight on me.”
Some people may be intimidated by poetry or feel like they can't understand it but Pantoja is a slam poet, which is partly performance art with a goal of engaging the audience.
“I’ve gone into multiple venues when they weren’t expecting anything like that people stop they listen,” he said.
When Lang Cassera hears the criticism that poetry is boring or not relatable, she tells people that she didn't like poetry for a long time but she realized that much of the poetry she learned in school was written a long time ago, using language that can seem out of date.
She was given a box of books by a relative that included books of contemporary poetry, which changed her view of the art form entirely.
“It is really important to find the poetry that speaks to you or the poetry that relates to the things that you like,” she said.
When Lang Cassera first came to Las Vegas from Seattle, she almost had a moment of panic when she struggled to find the poetry community but after attending the Las Vegas Book Festival, she found not just poets but a supportive community of artists.
“Las Vegas and the Greater Clark County area is really wonderful about accepting poets for who they are and where they’re at,” she said.
To listen to the entire poem by Pantoja - click here - warning he uses adult language in this poem that may not be suitable for younger listeners.
Heather Lang-Cassera, poet laureate, Clark County; Pan Pantoja, poet laureate, Reno
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