Tongo Eisen-Martin has been chosen as the eighth San Francisco Poet Laureate, Mayor London Breed announced Friday. Nominated by a selection committee made up of nine city officials, prior Poets Laureate, and members of the Bay Area literary community, Eisen-Martin will succeed Kim Shuck in the position.
In her announcement on Friday morning, Mayor Breed highlighted not only Eisen-Martin’s literary talents but his long history of giving back to San Francisco’s young people. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Tongo when he was a teaching artist at the African American Arts and Culture complex, and I’ve seen his remarkable ability to spur creativity in youth and inspire them to find their own voice,” said Mayor Breed. “His work on racial justice and equity, along with his commitment to promoting social and cultural change, comes at such a critical time for our city and our country.”
Born and raised in San Francisco, Eisen-Martin is the founder of Black Freighter Press. His 2017 book Heaven Is All Goodbyes (City Lights) received the 2018 California Book Award for poetry, a 2018 American Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. (In a review of Heaven is All Goodbyes in 2017, KQED hailed Eisen-Martin's cadences as "polyphonic, gritty, and unexpectedly fragile, like jazz.")