UC Santa Cruz humanities lecturer Gary Young has been named the first-ever Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County.

The announcement was made by the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County at its annual Gail Rich Awards celebration held at the Rio Theatre.

The job of the poet laureate is to advance and enliven the art of poetry in Santa Cruz County.

As the inaugural poet laureate, Young will act as an advocate for poetry, literature, and the arts, and contribute to Santa Cruz's cultural legacy through public readings and participation in civic events.

This marks the second major honor for Young in the past year. Last March, he received the prestigious 2009 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.

"Poets, like prophets, frequently find no honor in their own land, so it is especially gratifying to be recognized by the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County," said Young.

"Santa Cruz is blessed with an abundance of superlative artists and writers, and to represent our area's many exceptional poets is a great distinction, and a humbling one," he added.

Young graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1973 and received his M.F.A. from UC Irvine in 1975. He currently teaches poetry as a lecturer in creative writing in the UC Santa Cruz Literature Department.

Young's books include Pleasure, Hands, The Dream of A Moral Life (winner of the James D. Phelan Award), Days, Braver Deeds (winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize), and No Other Life (winner of the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award for best book of the year published by a university, literary, or independent press).

Since 1975, Young has also designed, illustrated, and printed limited-edition books and broadsides at his Greenhouse Review Press. His print work is represented in many collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Getty Center for the Arts.

"The creation of this new Poet Laureate position says more about the community's support of the arts than it does about my own personal accomplishments," Young observed.

"This is yet another example of the community's recognition that encouragement of the arts is a fundamental component of a fully functioning, exuberant culture."

Michelle Williams, executive director of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz, said that "a great deal of passion and expertise went into creating this position," adding,"you will have many chances to hear Gary speak and read in the upcoming two years."

Williams noted that the tradition of naming a poet laureate began in 17th Century England. The United States Library of Congress appointed an official Consultant in Poetry in 1937, and the name of that position was changed to Poet Laureate in 1985.

California became the first state to name a poet laureate informally, and the position was established by the legislature in 2001.

The Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County runs programs and services to support the artistic health and vibrancy of the community, advancing the arts by providing funding, advocacy, and support to artists and arts organizations.

As the state- and county-designated arts umbrella organization for Santa Cruz County, the Cultural Council's programs include the annual Open Studios Art Tour, the SPECTRA teaching artist program in local schools, support grants for artists and arts organizations, and Fast Track matching grants to schools for arts education.