Unity Poem Project Submissions Deadline is July 1

California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will present “The Most Incredible & Biggest Poem on Unity in the World” at California Unity Poem Fiesta Oct. 9

fiesta event logo

UC Riverside will host the California Unity Poem Fiesta on Oct. 9.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — “The Most Incredible & Biggest Poem on Unity in the World” is about to get even bigger as California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera issues a last call for contributions to the project that already is brimming with lines submitted by hundreds of Californians.

July 1 is the deadline to submit original poetry that relates to the theme of “Unity.” Submissions may be sent as a Word document to Herrera at poetlaureate@arts.ca.gov. Contributions to the Unity Project will be assembled into one poem that will be read at the California Unity Poem Fiesta at UC Riverside on Oct. 9.

Sponsors of the event include UC Riverside, University of California, California Arts Council, The California State University, and Cal Humanities.

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

Herrera, a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, launched the Unity Project soon after Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him California Poet Laureate in March 2012. The appointment ends in September and will culminate in the Oct. 9 poetry festival.

“The goal is to inspire unity, to inspire creative thinking and writing and holding hands in as many ways as possible,” Herrera said. Submissions may be in the form of a few words, a sentence, a poem, a rap, a group or class poem, or a song.

Herrera noted that since his appointment he has visited schools, colleges and many communities to share poetry and express their creativity “because it will change the world in you and just maybe everywhere. Believe it or not, one poem, one phrase, one word, one voice can be magical. We need unity in these times, and most of all, we need your call for unity to be heard.”

In the last two years poems expressing the unity theme have been sent to communities as varied as Newton, Conn., after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School; to Boston after the bombing at the Boston Marathon; and to the Philippines after a super-typhoon decimated the island of Leyte.

Among the contributors to “The Most Incredible & Biggest Poem on Unity in the World” is University of California President Janet Napolitano. Here is her poem.


It’s all a matter of emphasis, you see.

I could look at you and perceive
                only the differences
Clothed in harsh, convenient labels:
                gender, skin color, religion
Rich?  Poor?  Immigrant?  Or not.

 I could speak with you and hear
                what we might share
Described more tellingly:
                lover of music, reader of novels
Traveler?  Theater goer?  Football fan?  Or not.

 I could turn to the sciences and know
                what inalterably binds us
Down to the sub-cellular level:
                genomic patterns, anatomical structures
Physiology?  Neurology?  Blood type O?  Or not.

 What joins us, however
Deserves more study and attention
Seven billion people share the Earth
Each person having
                a mind
                a consciousness
                a soul

 Emphasis should be on what matters most
And it is on these three things.

                          Janet Napolitano
                         February 2014

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Poetry submissions
E-mail: poetlaureate@arts.ca.gov

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