Castro's Kim Shuck To Make Inaugural Address As City’s Poet Laureate

In June, Kim Shuck was named the city’s poet laureate, succeeding Alejandro Murguía as the seventh artist since Lawrence Ferlinghetti was first given the title back in 1998.

Today, she’ll give her inaugural address to the public at the Main Library on Larkin Street during a celebration in her honor from 6 to 8pm.

Shuck said she wasn’t initially interested in being San Francisco’s next poet laureate.

“When they asked me, I laughed."

Earlier this year, she was nominated by a nine-member committee of city officials, Bay Area writers and previous poet laureates.

After making the selection committee’s first cut, she decided to go along with the honor because she “mistakenly thought it was more or less the same as what I was already doing.”

In June, she was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee. 

Kim Shuck at a reading. | Photo: City Lights Booksellers & Publishers/Facebook

In her official capacity, Shuck will participate in poetry events and readings across the city and will collaborate with Litquake, WritersCorps and the SF Public Library. San Francisco poet laureates receive a one-time payment of $5,000 for their approximate 18-to-24 month terms.

According to the selection criteria, nominees must be city residents who have a substantial body of published work; Shuck exceeds those qualifications.

A fourth-generation San Franciscan, Shuck was born and raised on Collingwood Street in the Castro, where she still lives. Her maternal grandparents met at Shotwell Street’s Polish Hall, and she describes the city’s Mission District as her childhood library. 

Congrats to #kimshuck (#Cherokee/Euro) for selection as #sanfrancisco #poetlaureate!

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Her poetry and art (mainly textiles, weavings and beadwork) reflects her Polish and Cherokee descent, and collections of her poems include Smuggling Cherokee, Clouds Running In, and Rabbit Stories.

In addition to her work as a poet and an artist, Shuck teaches in the California College of Art’s diversity department. She’s also volunteered in SF Unified School District classrooms for two decades.

Samples of Shuck's beadwork. | Photo: Kim Shuck/Facebook

Shuck is quick to acknowledge the long line of dignified and accomplished poets she follows, but said she plans to add some of her own touches to the role, including her whimsical sense of humor, her work with city youth, and her political activism.  

“There’s something particularly political about being a long-term San Francisco person in an era when gentrification has reached a fever pitch,” Shuck said, who serves on the interim board of directors for new American Indian Cultural Center of San Francisco.

“I am and was a big activist way before anyone thought this would happen," she said, "so it’s interesting they appointed me.”

Shuck said she was startled by the amount of attention she’s received from fans, the general public and the media. Accepting the honor has exceeding her initial expectations, she said.

A week after receiving the honor, Shuck received a letter from a young native writer.

“She said that if I could get this position in city like San Francisco with so many poets,” Shuck said, “it made her feel inspired by her own work, and the possibility of getting somewhere with her writing.”

Kim Shuck. | Photo: Kim Shuck/Facebook

Tonight, Shuck will read a few of her poems, acknowledge the work of past poet laureates and speak about why good writers are from (or end up) in the city.

She’ll also share her plans for the position.

“There are a lot of people in certain segments of San Francisco's literary population that were surprised [that I was selected],” Shuck said. “The inauguration will be explaining to people who I am and what my intentions are.”

When asked to share some poetic words of wisdom, Shuck encouraged residents to place more of an emphasis on community.

“There’s a social responsibility for everyone,” Shuck said, “that if you’re going to settle in a community, you need to participate in that community in a communal way. If you don’t want to talk to your neighbors, don’t live in the city.”

Still, she said she's optimistic about San Francisco's future.

“The problems that are being created have never been quite this intense,” Shuck said, “but you have a medium-sized earthquake and everyone freaks out and leaves."

"The people left are the ones interested in participating and building community," she said.

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