Friends of the Calaveras County Library is pleased to announce the Poet Laureate Program for Calaveras County and its first Poet Laureate, Conrad Levasseur. The selection and announcement of the Calaveras County Poet Laureate is a process administered by the non-profit Friends of the Calaveras County Library.
The position of Calaveras County Poet Laureate will honor local outstanding poets, integrate poetry into the community, enrich the education of our young people, and enhance the County’s position as a cultural center. The position of California Poet Laureate was established as a part of the California Government Code in 2001 through AB 113.
Appointments are for two-year terms. The honorary position is without salary although an annual stipend will be provided.
Poet Laureate Conrad Levasseur:
Contact Phone: 209-754-0577
About Conrad Levasseur:
“POETRY SAVED MY LIFE. It helped me to go in sane and come out sane. In and out. The Balance. It helped put into perspective all my international explorations. I had guided groups to well over a hundred countries. Poetry was a vehicle for the distillation and grounding of those experiences. The same was true for all the other elements of my life; the workplace, my relationship with my family and community, and my connection with the natural world. It was always a meditational tool. It helped me to be in touch with the more unseen part of myself. The transcendent. The part that was larger than my individual self, but affirmed it. The part that always brought me back to the present moment, connected me with whatever the circumstances of my life were, and interconnected me with everything else.
I believe the poetic element is a part of everyone, even if they don’t know it. And that it has the potential as a tool for, those that are so inclined, enriching their self awareness, and giving an added sense of direction to their lives.”
My personal poetry
I have published seven books of poetry, each about fifty pages. They were all published by “Small Poetry Press” in Pleasant Hill, CA.
“The Spirits Can’t Get You On The Stairs” – “The Single Parent Wilderness Of The Nursery Room” – “Moon Honey” – “Counting Coup” – “Breakfast Jazz” – “Circling Blue Mountain” – “Bush Banana Dreaming”
Although I lost dozens of journals, and a number of manuscripts I had been working on, in the Calaveras Butte Fire, I did manage to save a half dozen manuscripts for potential future publication.
I never made much of an effort to send individual poems to magazines, literary journals, or newspapers, but I did have some of my poems appear in San Francisco Ecology Center News, World Prayers, Manzanita Writers Press’s Manzanita: Poetry and Prose of the Mother Lode and Sierra series and Out Of The Fire anthology, a British literary anthology, a men’s group journal, and several independent literary blogs that had somehow pulled them out of my books.
I gave a number of readings in various bookstores and cafes in San Francisco, Berkeley, The East Bay, and Marin County.
Coupled with this was a series of Multidimensional Journaling workshops that I have conducted, combining journal entries, poetry, art work, collage, and news clippings as a way of stimulating greater creativity in ones’ work, academic studies, artistic pursuits, and family.
My general work in the world
For the past sixteen years I have been “Director Of Community Relations And Development” at Ironstone Vineyards. I have represented Ironstone locally, regionally, and statewide. I’ve been their “Concierge,” developed a three-hour educational wine history tour of the vineyards, and trained dozens of employees to be able to conduct a good part of it.
I was on the Board Of Directors for “California Travel Association” (CalTravel), the influential, unified voice of the travel and tourism industry in California, for four years. Its mission is to protect and advance the Industry’s interests and investments through advocacy, collaboration, and education.
I was on the Advisory Board for the Calaveras Enterprise for four years.
I was on Columbia College’s Advisory Board to assess the development of tourism in Tuolumne, Calaveras, and Amador counties for two years. I’ve given numerous talks on Gold Rush history, the wine industry, and agricultural tourism in the foothills. I served as the “West Coast Regional Sales Manager” for sixteen years at Travel Corporation of America (Travcoa). I conducted groups to well over a hundred countries, throughout Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, Asia, The Middle East, South and Central America, the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. I developed and presented global travel talks to travel agents on the west coast, and around the country, and was a key note speaker at various conferences.
Former Director of U.C. Berkeley’s “International House’s”, Summer program, Lodestar International Student Program in Calaveras County.
San Francisco Ecology Center. I directed their Environmental Speakers Program, and conducted walking tours of the city.
American River Touring Association in Oakland (ARTA). I was a wild river rafting guide in California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
American International Travel Service (AITS), Chestnut Hill, MA. My travel experience started with them after college. As a Tour Director, I conducted groups through The Hawaiian Islands, Europe, The Orient and Southeast Asia, and South America.
Below is a poem by Conrad, from the anthology, Out of the Fire,
published by Manzanita Writers Press in 2017.
45 Years of My Words Away
by Conrad Levasseur
So how do I write about something
that took 45 years of my words & art away?
Journals, articles, poems, drawings, paintings, manuscripts, travel sketches, a library & research files, every letter
and post card from the three kids, Margaret, family, friends.
A goldrush mine of memory
that I wanted to dig into in retirement to shovel, rake, sift, pan and separate all the nuggets from the general debris.
After the fire
only the rammed earth adobe walls still standing
Everything else melted or bent or pulverized into soft, fine ash.
Even the half dozen cords of wood
in the open field
that were chain sawed, split, stacked neatly in geometric rows
patiently waiting through
the drought-dried summer simmering heat to perform their duty
in the Vermont Casting wood stove
as soon as the first beautiful silver frost wolves of winter came running down
the slopes of the Sierra
but a handful of delicate fine ash.
The power of the flame to totally dissolve
a refrigerator, liquify glass
and melt machines.
All those hundreds of hours spent getting beyond clearance with the undergrowth
inching my way through oak, manzanita, cedar, pine,
miners’ misery, poison oak, star thistle
Now beyond—beyond clearance.
Every nook, valley, slope, hill creek, drainage on the acreage
nakedly exposed beyond all my years of intimacy with them.
There were some ghost books that lay on their backs, binders spread open,
at a hundred and eighty degrees
an accordion of pages eerily beckoning
to be picked up and played
one last time
collapsing with their final breath when delicately touched
by a finger cautiously seeking that final secretive tale.
Somehow family history still clung to the walls
reminding me of archeological sites I visited around the world
I first thought
of leaving the walls to be buried
by moss, lichens, vines
a new forest monument to my family living
for a short period together at the edge of the grid
my mother’s ashes
spread around the property weaving a genetic thread
from the Old World to the New.
When Margaret and I drove back the first time and got out of the car, both of us thought
one of us whispered, The silence—it’s so quiet here.
beyond the cherished silence that had nurtured us
all these years.
No tracks of squirrel, skunk, raccoon, bear, coyote, mountain lion, wild turkey, wild pig, dog, cat.
No bird songs.
One set—one set out of dozens before of deer tracks clearly imprinted
in the ash-sealed road.
the walls did have to come down the land did have to be cleared
leaving an open, empty field. A haunted forest?
Or, a fresh, new field of dreams?
Yet to be written.
Conrad Levasseur, Poet Laureate of Calaveras County,
speaking and writing on Travel
Link to podcast “Hungry Minds” interview with Levasseur
Aran Levasseur talks with Conrad Levasseur about getting charged by a Silverback Gorilla, staring a deadly Mamba in the face, climbing an active volcano, and other travel stories. Conrad has conducted travel groups through over a hundred and twenty countries and worked as a wild river rafting guide in the western states. He created a 49 mile scenic walk for the San Francisco Ecology Center and directed Lodestar International Student Center for the University of California’s “International House.” He was a World Travel Destinations Consultant for decades. Conrad is also a poet and has published seven books of poetry. Currently he is the Director of Community Relations and Development at Ironstone Vineyards.
Conrad Levasseur is the first Poet Laureate of Calaveras County from July 2020 to July 2022. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This Tapestry for Margaret
By Conrad Levasseur
we weave together.
Not quite like
in the days
of the Ancestors.
The totemic guides
hunted down & killed
to the rational mind.
of all species …
wounded & scarred,
fast lane attention
for us to
to the cries
of her many children.
The inhuman ravishings
among men & women,
the rape of basic rights,
of being grasped,
by eye, ear & brain.
The way it is
because it is.
But there is
of being born again
in a planetary heart
that stretches beyond
the equal beauty
of rock, tree, flower,
stream, air, animal,
bird, insect & fish.
That lovingly embraces
the full color species spectrum.
I do not pretend to
consciously embody it,
live within its awareness
but, in times
I am reminded
of the knowing of it
(forever always here)
through the spirit guides
& shamanic trails
they lead me on.
I have been
directly called upon
by jaguar, wolf, eagle,
bear, hummingbird, mountain lion,
deer & lizard.
and by numerous others
that secretly entered
through the back door
of my skull.
to stop-look-listen-feel-attune myself
to That Outofwhich I Came.
The Planet burns with a fever
that we have inflicted upon it
And no matter how wild-erness,
rural, or urban we are …
let us know the cure …