The first time it happened, he was only five-years-old. He noticed a duck as it flew in the distance and watched its wings cup the air beneath them. Time slowed down and he became inspired by the elegance of nature as the duck landed in the lake. His first lyrical moment had happened, something he wouldn’t realize until years later.
“The lyrical moment is the trigger for a poem. It’s real life that happens and you have this lift,” Jeff Knorr, an English literature professor at Sacramento City College said. “Poetry is capturing reality in mystery; the lyrical moment is poetry in real life.”
The Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission has selected Knorr as Sacramento’s new poet laureate, a position he will hold for the next two years. He is the second poet laureate from the Los Rios Community College District; Bob Stanley, an English and creative writing professor at SCC, was selected in 2010. As poet laureate, Knorr is responsible for enriching the community and becoming an advocate for the literary arts through public events and outreach.
However, Knorr did not always want to be a poet. After his advisor suggested he take a break from his rigorous biology classes, Knorr decided to study abroad in London, England. He has attributed his love for poetry to a Renaissance poetry class he took there while studying in London and the book “This Branch Will Not Break” by James Wright.
“When I read that book, it was over. I wanted to do what he did. I wanted to write like that,” Knorr said. “It clicked… Reading the poetry got me pretty interested.”
Knorr graduated with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University, Chico. He also taught at Butte Community College after graduating. It was after teaching an English class that he decided to pursue a career in teaching.
“My dad asked me, ‘Can you just be a writer and support yourself?’ I looked into it and realized I couldn’t. I needed a career,” Knorr said. “Teaching wasn’t far off radar, my mother was a teacher, so it made sense to me.”
Knorr’s future goals as poet laureate include reaching out to elementary schools and bringing writers into fourth through sixth grade classes to teach them about the importance of poetry. Unfortunately, according to Knorr, many teachers are unable to focus on poetry due to budget cuts, so he has pledged to help bring poetry to life in school classrooms.
Knorr is the author of three collections of poetry: “The Third Body,” “Standing Up to the Day” and “Keeper.” He was also the 2008 recipient of the Ray Bradbury Award in Poetry and finished third in the James Hurst Prize from the North American Review.
“Poets are the people that confront moral, political and ethical moments of our time,” Knorr said. “And I plan to help curate the legacy of poetry that’s already present and keep poetry alive in our city.”