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SBCC alumna, Poet Laureate publishes ‘Mouth & Fruit’

J.C. Corliss
Santa Barbara’s newest Poet Laureate, and former City College student (2003-2005), Chryss Yost enjoys an apple and reads a few of her poems from her book entitled “Mouth & Fruit” on Sunday, April 20. Yost became the Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara in April of 2013, and will keep that title until 2015.

Santa Barbara’s Poet Laureate writes about things like balance in the universe.

In one of her poems, “O,” she describes it as, “(The) idea that we can be things we desire as well as things that fill desire.”

Former City College student and UCSB graduate, Chryss Yost, is Santa Barbara’s fifth Poet Laureate. It is now her job to promote literary arts in Santa Barbara for two years and her term will end in 2015.

“The beauty of poetry is that you’re given an opportunity to select your words very carefully, to try to get a specific feeling across,” Yost said.

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It’s an “honorary position” for her because there are less than 100 cities with poet laureates.

The City Arts Commission appoints the position.

“It’s a way of having a more formal way of language to talk about the things that are important for our city,” Yost said.

She says she not only helps in promoting the arts, but she also helps keep poetry alive in the community by writing and reciting poems at local events.

In January, Yost presented a poem she was asked to write for the installation of the new City Council.

Yost is an active member of poetry groups and organizations in the community. She gains a lot of her inspiration from a poetry group that she meets with every Sunday.

“I think it’s important to find a group of poets whose work you really respect,” Yost said about the group. “They help make your work even stronger.”

Santa Barbara has had five poet laureates and all have been a member of this poetry group.

This is also where she met her friend of 12 years and City College professor, David Starkey.

“Chryss (Yost) is a very meticulous writer with a good ear for the way sounds go together,” Starkey commented.

Starkey created his own publishing company, Gunpowder Press, which Yost named for him after the legend of St. Barbara, patron of “things that go boom.”

Yost recently wrote her first book, “Mouth & Fruit, ”a book of poems dedicated to her husband.

The book was published as one of Gunpowder Press’s first books in late March.

She spent about 15 years on the book, collaboratively and collectively working on the poems over the years.

Barry Spacks, the first Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, was an inspiring member of the poetry group who helped her craft the book.

Spacks was Yost’s poetry mentor, or “poetry dad” as she referred to him, until this January when he passed away.

“Barry had a wonderful way to connect what was vibrant in your world, and help you grow with that,” Yost said.

“Shall we dress in skin/ our living linen?/ Bone weft/ pull of masculine/ the heft/ the warp/ weave and spin/ of carded days in,” she writes in her poem, “Lai With Sounds of Skin.”

Yost says her poetry style is compressed, yet commanding, with lots of energy.

“Her poems are short and well crafted, yet very powerful,” Starkey said.

Starkey’s textbook, which is on its second edition, “Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief,” features one of Yost’s poems.

“Her poem, ‘Escaping From Autopia,’ is in my textbook,” Starkey said. “I teach it to my poetry classes, it’s peoples favorite poem.”

Starkey’s book was voted second best creative writing book in America.

Yost plans to write another book of poems in the future, as she left a lot of poems out of her first one.

She doesn’t plan on publishing anything for at least another three years though, wanting to give “Mouth & Fruit” its time of fame.

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