by Janice Bressler
Kim Shuck, San Francisco’s current poet laureate, is impossible to pigeonhole. She is a widely published poet who was appointed to the laureate position by the late SF Mayor Ed Lee in order to promote poetry throughout the City. She is also an artisan, bead worker and weaver, as well as an educator and activist.
But, in all of her work, she draws on a deep love of San Francisco and the city’s cultural diversity.
A fifth generation San Franciscan, Shuck’s cultural roots are Cherokee on her father’s side and Polish on her mother’s side. The streets of San Francisco, Shuck says, are a fertile ground for poetry, with their rich mix of languages, cultures and vistas.
“The diverseness of this City is amazing,” says Shuck, who frequently wanders the city’s hills and neighborhoods on foot. “I love that as a kid growing up here I’d walk out the door and it seemed like there was every language that I’d ever want to hear.”
Since she assumed the poet laureate role, Shuck has been working tirelessly as a poetry advocate and teacher in the city’s schools, libraries, bookshops and beyond. She leads readings and workshops for audiences of all ages, from elementary school kids to seniors.
A long-time volunteer with the SF Unified School District, Shuck says she discovered that poetry can be a powerful tool for teaching language skills as well as self expression.
“A poem is a very manageable, pocket-sized project,” says Shuck.
For 2019, Shuck is planning a new digital poetry project that she calls the “poem map of San Francisco.”
“The sidewalks and corners of this City are so rich with different languages and stories, I want to create an interactive map of San Francisco that captures that and makes it accessible,” Shuck said.
She envisions the poem map will be user friendly, with a user moving a cursor over a city street or park and having a poem pop up that describes that location, tells a story that happened there, evokes images of the place or otherwise captures that particular piece of the City.
Shuck hopes her poem map will not only introduce more people to the poems inspired by and set in San Francisco, but also document the city’s rich and evolving poetic history. She is looking for poems and suggestions for the poem map.