Ventura County Poetry Project began informally as a group of writers self-dubbed the ‘Poetry Committee’ with the goal of activating the literary community in Ventura County by recognizing four elder poets as Literary Treasures of Ventura County. Poets Elnora McNaughton, Doris Vernon, Joyce La Mers and Polly Bee had contributed to our cultural life for decades. In April 2013, we hosted a reception in their honor at the Ventura County Government Center.
In the following years, we sponsored a whirlwind of initiatives in multiple locales around the county including “An Afternoon of Animal Verse” at the Agricultural Museum in Santa Paula using John Nichols ‘Vernacular Bestiary,’ students at Walnut Canyon Elementary School in Moorpark wrote ekphrastic poems, students in Camarillo decorated shop windows with their poems in Old Town during Poetry Month in April, Poets Laureate from six counties converged on Art City in Ventura for a Laureate Lollapalooza and shared poems and advice on building community.
We hosted ongoing reading series, poetry contests, outreached elder poets in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties for another installment of Treasures, published a book for Jackson Wheeler, a poetic genius from Oxnard dying young of a brain tumor, held a one-day Literary Festival at Oxnard High School to reach underserved students, and much, much more. After years of projects, we realized in 2019 that we need to incorporate as a charitable organization and applied for non-profit status.