Words are powerful. When placed together, they have the ability to break down walls or build bridges, heal or hurt, discourage or inspire.
In San Luis Obispo County, there is a leadership position dedicated to opening up this world of words to anyone willing to explore it — county poet laureate.
For newly elected county poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder, the power of words is most evident through poetry, an art form she wants to spread through the county through this leadership position.
County poet laureate serves as a leader in the poetry community, encouraging others to try their hand at the craft and foster a greater appreciation for poetry. The county poet laureate is elected to serve a two-year term. ARTS Obispo, a local arts advocacy group, started its County Poet Laureate Program to support its mission of advancing the visual, literary and performing arts in San Luis Obispo County.
Retired psychologist Greensfelder has incorporated her study of people and their actions into her poetry. She writes poems about her own experiences in a way people can relate to. Though much of Greensfelder’s work illustrates memories of her first love and her marriage, she said that many people can easily see themselves as characters in her stories. In her words, her background in psychology has helped her “realize effective ways to affect someone.”
Greensfelder built a significant following since she started exploring poetry nearly a decade ago.
She received eight nominations for the San Luis Obispo County Poet Laureate Program.
Through her role, Greensfelder hopes to start a conversation about poetry.
“I want people to talk, share and connect over beautiful words,” she said. “I want to bring the pleasure and solace of poetry to the community.”
To support this goal, one of the first things Greensfelder did as county poet laureate was start the “Come Home to Poetry” program. The program allows the community to become part of an email list through ARTS Obispo in which participants receive up to four poems a week from Greensfelder.
Greensfelder said that her title seems daunting, but at the end of the day, being county poet laureate is just about storytelling. And according to Greensfelder, everyone has a story to tell.
“We are all poets if you really think about it. We’re born with it,” she said. “As babies, we were born with so much rhythm through our breathing and heartbeat. That natural poet in us never goes away. We just have to embrace it.”