Mayor Chooses Two New Poets Laureate

Courtesy Photo &nbsp&nbsp Dana

Courtesy Photo    Dana


Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer and Library Director Jane Chisaki announce that Gene Kahane and Cathy Dana have been named Poets Laureate, the third and fourth poets in Alameda history to hold the title. The city’s first Poet Laureate was Mary Rudge, who served from 2002 to 2014. She was followed by Julia Park Tracey, who served from 2014 to 2017.

Gene Kahane has been teaching for more than 30 years, most of that time in Alameda at Haight Elementary, Wood Middle and Encinal High schools. He is also an actor, drama director and poet. He has written poetry to commemorate events, honored colleagues and students for their milestones in life and has encouraged people to find their voices and share their talents.

Cathy Dana is the president of Alameda Island Poets, and regularly leads two workshops at the Home of Truth. She facilitates “Storytelling Swap” at Frank Bette Center for the Arts. She also teaches creative writing at Alameda Community Learning Center, where she began the Mighty Pens teen poetry group, as well as the first poet laureate program. Her first published book of poetry, My Dad Believed in Love, was released in early 2016.

The Poet Laureate is a ceremonial appointment made by the Mayor. Members of a selection committee reviewed applications and interviewed top candidates. Nominees must be an Alameda resident and actively involved in the literary community. Responsibilities include creating community-based poetry events that reflect Alameda’s diversity.

The two Poets Laureate will be officially appointed at the Sept. 5, City Council meeting following which, they will recite their inaugural poems.

“The City of Alameda is thrilled with the appointments of Gene Kahane and Cathy Dana as our Poets Laureate. This is a very important role for our arts and literary community,” said Library Director and staff to the Poet Laureate Selection Committee Jane Chisaki. “The Selection Committee had a very difficult time selecting from our top two candidates even after personal interviews, so we chose them both! Appointing both Mr. Kahane and Ms. Dana brings a wonderful breadth of experience and passion for the written word.”


Courtesy Photo &nbsp&nbsp Kahane

Courtesy Photo    Kahane
Alameda Magazine, November 6, 2017

Alameda’s Poet Laureates Are People Poetic Partners

Alameda names not one but two poet laureates, thinking two bards just may be better than one.



Alameda has come to be known as a city that stands apart, and not just because it’s an island. For instance, when it came time to select a new poet laureate after Julia Park Tracey’s appointment ended, the city’s Poet Laureate Selection Committee had a difficult time deciding between the top two candidates, Cathy Dana and Gene Kahane, so it named them both.

“Appointing both Mr. Kahane and Ms. Dana brings a wonderful breadth of experience and passion for the written word,” library director and Poet Laureate Selection Committee staff member Jane Chisaki said in a statement for the city of Alameda in July.

The new poet laureates are equally thrilled about the partnership, one that Kahane calls a “couplet.”

“Though unusual, I’m overjoyed at sharing the poet laureate title with Cathy Dana,” Kahane said. “We’ve met several times, love poetry, are both teachers, have ambitious plans to help foster a love of language, and both bike a lot around town.”

Dana agreed that sharing the post is unusual but exciting. “I love sharing the post with Gene,” she said. “I think two heads are better than one, and we can spark each other, build with each other. We each have organizations that we are a part of, and that gives us resources to create events and programs; together we can reach out even further than we already do.”

Dana’s relationship with poetry has been strong since her mother read to her from Dr. Seuss as a child, but it was in 2003 that she met Mary Rudge, Alameda’s first poet laureate, and the Alameda Island Poets. Dana is president of the organization.

“When I met Mary Rudge, she was having a poetry contest, and the theme was Alameda. I was excited, because I had poems about the Alameda beach. Those poems are now in the Alameda-themed poem anthology.”

Dana moved to Alameda in 1985 and married Alameda-born Jim Gordon in 1987. Their son, Max, attended school at the Alameda Community Learning Center, where Dana signed on to teach creative writing to sixth-graders. Today, she continues to teach that class, as well as a creative writing class for high schoolers. Dana initiated ACLC’s poet laureate program and the Mighty Pens teen poetry group. Her first poetry book, My Dad Believed in Love, was published in 2015 by Sugartown Publishing.

“I see the creative spirit in each of us as sometimes shy, a bit delicate, and vulnerable to criticism. It is so important to nurture it, so I see myself as a guardian of the creative spirit, and my mission is to bring the joy, the beauty, the wisdom, the spirit of inquiry of poetry to Alamedans of all ages, all walks of life.”

Dana would like to see a poet laureate program at every high school and would like to bring poetry reading, appreciation, and writing to Mastick and other senior centers.

“I really like to partner, so I’d love to partner with merchants, hospitals, Meals on Wheels, the library, maybe even the fire department or police department. I want to work with Gene to create events that are fun and engaging. I’m open to any ideas people have and how to implement them. I’m thinking about a Poet Laureate Summit, a Poetry Picnic, a Poetry Crawl. I’m open!”

While Kahane wrote poems as a child, the first one he remembers is from his freshman year of college. At the end of his first semester, he wrote a poem of lamentation after breaking up with his high school girlfriend. His RA, whom he describes as a gruff, non-poetry type of guy, asked to read it and then asked for a copy. Since that first “published poem,” Kahane’s poetry writing has become central to his creativity.

“I’m inspired by things I see—people, trees, birds, kids, pretty much everything—and surprise myself often with the direction and tone my poems take.”

An East Bay native, Kahane is married with two kids. He has lived in Alameda for 20 years. His 30 years of teaching experience have included positions at Haight Elementary School, Wood Middle School, and currently, Encinal High School.

In addition to writing verse for various occasions from commemorating events to honoring colleagues and students, he is also a drama director and actor, having performed at the defunct Alameda Civic Light Opera and directed with the Altarena Playhouse and Alameda Children’s Musical Theater. And some Alamedans may have seen him selling books at Books Inc.

Kahane describes Alameda as odd, quirky, and lovely, with a creative and passionate mix of people. “I love seeing the kids in school, the customers in the bookstore, people at the beach, on their bikes, flying kites, riding waves, playing ball, loving the Warriors, and hanging out on Webster and Park.”

As poet laureate, Kahane said he pledges to not only speak beauty and truth, but also to encourage others to do the same. He sees poetry as both “a sword and a feather” and hopes to increase its accessibility throughout the Island.

“My vision as poet laureate is to make poetry big and vital and fun and powerful for everyone, meaning writing poems and tying them to trees, drawing them on sidewalks, meeting in parks and bars and coffee shops and writing with others, sharing, laughing, discovering.”


Both poet laureates wrote inaugural poems, which will each be published at the end of this story on


ALAMEDA POET LAUREATE 2017  (click this for a video of Cathy reading the poem below)

Cathy readingCathy reading her inaugural poem at City Hall to Mayor and CouncilBirth of a Bridge

By Cathy Dana


“Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness to pull another hand into the light.”

—Norman B. Rice


If I were a painter …

I’d paint a bridge

that dared the sky to listen

so deeply

with such tenderness,

such mystical compassion

that all who crossed the bridge

felt instantly healed and whole,

swept into eternal sunset bliss,

their life missions becoming

to unreservedly, wholeheartedly welcome

every other being

in the universe.


I have always loved bridges—

Seeing them, crossing them, looking out from them.

When a certain sentence about the Park St. Bridge

caught me, pulled me in,

I had to know more.

So I put on my Sherlock cap, made a bee-line for the library,

and found myself knee-deep in microfilm.

There it was: Alameda Times-Star, evening of Oct. 4, 1935.

The news blazed across the front page,

bold and bright, bringing new light, new hope,

each letter tall, each word glittering, daring me to read on,

promising a story of epic proportions.

In 1935 Alameda was as draped in the darkness of the Great Depression

as any city, and yet—

here it was—the new deal, the real deal,

the deal everyone was waiting for.

From the depths of the Depression,

where tomorrow was not a given

and the clouds of pessimism blocked the daylight of hope

The headlines read, “Alameda Dedicates New Bridge—

Gala Events for Opening of Big Span.”

And in one fell swoop, the Park St. Bridge struck a chord

in the hearts and souls of the residents of Alameda.

It was more than concrete and steel

coming together to unite Alameda;

our community spoke with one voice

that shouted from rooftops:

there is hope, and the possibility of a better tomorrow.

With a crescendo, our bridge proved

that building communities with bridges and not walls

could unite and not divide.

Still, the line that had caught me was this:

“Symbolic Wedding Rites Will Unite Couple at Span Opening.”

I had to blink twice. A wedding on the bridge?


The Times-Star promises: A new day is dawning.

After two years of waiting,

the new bridge will connect Oakland and Alameda.

Everyone is invited to Alameda’s party, 2:30pm

till 2:30am—“the most gigantic celebration in its history.”

As pennants, banners, flags, colored lights bedeck Park St. and 29thAve.;

marathon runners from Oakland bear good wishes to Alameda;

stunt planes make thrilling aerial maneuvers;

boats race and yachts from every East Bay city form

the “Night-in-Venice” regatta; aquatic stars

swim and dive in the estuary; a mammoth two-city parade

seven thousand strong crosses the bridge;

guests dine and dance in the Alameda Hotel ball-room for $1.25;

others join the 14-piece orchestra for a street dance on Park Street

and midnight vaudeville stage show in the New Alameda Theatre.


At 2:30’s opening dedication, from either side of the bridge

two figures approach each other.

Mayor McCracken strides out from Oakland

Mayor Roebke strides out from Alameda.

They arrive in the exact center

where the two arms of the bascule bridge meet;

clasp hands connecting city to city; sister cities.

Speeches abound, dedications are made.

Then, amidst cheers and applause,

Miss Edith Bird of Alameda and Mr. Edward Drotleff of Oakland

exchange wedding vows there on the very center of the bridge.

Their nuptial kiss graces the front page of the Oakland Trib,

and they become poster children for the true meaning

of community: come unity,

reminding us to reach out across the waters,

across whatever lines we think we see; that

human beings alone can self-reflect

can choose understanding, compassion, respect;

we are not just an island alone and apart

we can open our minds and the doors to our heart.

When you stand on the bridge of your final goodbye

what truly matters as your time draws nigh?

You may have needs that are different than mine

Yet if we look deeper, can we align?

We drink the same water, breathe the same air

We are here on the same earth, can we not share?

We find out that together is when we are strong

We reach out to embrace; know that we all belong.

The bridge can inspire us: “Reach out in the dark,

bring forth your magnificent, most brilliant spark.

When you pull someone’s hand into the light

Your heart becomes larger, your spark ever bright.”

Sanctuary city yet to this day

Alameda, shining, still lights the way.

Poet proclamation 001

Above Left: Cathy, Mayor Spencer, Gene Kahane at City Hall.  Above Right and Below: Cathy and Mayor Spencer reading  Poet Laureate proclamation to 400 students at Alameda Community Learning Center.




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