Clark County Poet Laureate Heather Lang-Cassera.
Heather Lang-Cassera became Clark County's third poet laureate in 2019.
The Poet Laureate program is subsidized by Clark County Public Art Fund and managed by the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center.
At the start of her term as Clark County, Nevada Poet Laureate, Heather Lang-Cassera endeavored to expand the reach of poetry within the county and to show our community that poetry is for everyone. Even amidst the pandemic, which hit us not even one year into her two-year term, Lang-Cassera designed and implemented programming that has helped our community to strengthen, to heal, and to grow through poetry.
In 2019, through the Poet’s Toolbox: A Generative Writing Workshop Series, Lang-Cassera brought poetry to urban and rural communities throughout the county, such as Las Vegas, Henderson, Overton, and elsewhere. Topics included Nature Poetry at the Clark County Wetlands Park, Ekphrastic Poetry at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, Re-Discovering Haiku at the Moapa Valley Community Center, and Calaveras Literarias at the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center, among many others. Community members of all ages and skill levels left these workshops having written a poem, including community members who were brimming with pride and a newfound passion, never imagining they could be poets.
In addition to bringing poetry to those less familiar with the art form, Lang-Cassera celebrated our established poets. For example, she curated and edited Sandstone & Silver, published by Zeitgeist Press, an anthology of over fifty Nevada poets who give back as writing teachers, open mic hosts, librarians, poetry workshop leaders, and more.
Also before the pandemic, Lang-Cassera held a Poetry Among the Pines retreat on Mount Charleston, where members of the community gathered to write, to learn, and to perform their work near the hearth within Camp Lee Canyon. She also installed the Poet Laureate Little Free Library at the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center, which brims with poetry books for readers of all ages. Furthermore, Lang-Cassera was invited by EAT MORE ART! Vegas to host an array of poets on stage at the Galleria at Sunset Mall as a part of the Las Vegas Artist’s Guild Art Expo. She also partnered with the Hydrant Club for a Pups & Poetry event. One of Lang-Cassera’s passions is bringing poetry to unexpected places.
Additionally, in 2019 and early 2020, Lang-Cassera co-hosted monthly Poet Laurate & Pals Open Mics at the West Charleston Library celebrating dozens of diverse voices. When the pandemic hit, she was quick on her feet to switch gears, keeping her community both safe and connected. She implemented the Nevada Poets Online Open Mic, celebrating participants from Las Vegas, Henderson, Pahrump, Reno, and other parts of Nevada.
As Clark County Poet Laureate, Lang-Cassera co-hosted Poetry Matters, in-person poetry reading series at Nevada Humanities Program Gallery in the heart of the First Friday festivities. After the arrival of Covid-19, she and her co-host, Ms. AyeVee, continued the series through social media. Next, their project crescendoed into a super bloom of desert poets: with Nevada Humanities, Lang-Cassera curated a selection of short poems by over two-dozen poets which toured the Las Vegas Valley in lights by digital billboard truck. Poetry Matters hit the road! In the words of lifelong Las Vegan Jennifer Battisti, “obstacles seem only to inspire Heather to find new ways to use the literary arts to teach us how to belong to each other.”
As we sheltered in place, Lang-Cassera hosted a Poet’s Guide book club, offered writing lessons through Winchester Dondero Cultural Center’s “Window to Poetry” social media series, and curated a collaborative poem by over fifty Nevada poets, which was published at the Nevada Humanities Double Down Blog. Additionally, Lang-Cassera collaborated with Henderson Libraries to bring Make-a-Zine kits to the community through Green Valley Library curbside pickup. Moreover, in collaboration with Poetry Promise, Lang-Cassera connected local poets with nationally renowned poets through safe, online programming: South Dakota Poet Laureate Emeritus Lee Ann Roripaugh, the award-winning Gayle Brandeis, and the United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the latter of which was also in collaboration with the Jewish Film Festival. Moreover, her April 2020 daily #poetrymonthprompt posts were celebrated in The New York Time’s “National Poetry Month Celebrations Go Online” article. Throughout the entirety of her term, as host of “Poet Laureate Presents,” a monthly Clark County Television segment, Lang-Cassera presented poets, ranging in age from high-schoolers to seniors, in various locations throughout Southern Nevada. Together, she and Clark County poets explored the parks of Henderson, the streets of Downtown Las Vegas, and many other unique Southern Nevada locations.
Most recently, Lang-Cassera curated a collaborative poem with guests of the Cora Coleman Senior Center. This community project, a part of the Clark County Public Arts Zap! program, will be etched into the sidewalk at Robert E. “Bob” Price Park. Lang-Cassera was also invited to write a poem honoring the Sunrise neighborhood and its newly renovated park, lines of verse which will be engraved in the footpaths for all to enjoy.
During her term, Lang-Cassera served as a judge for Poetry Out Loud, for the Spark! Youth Poetry Writing Competition, for the Winchester Dondero Cultural Center’s Calaveras Literarias contest, and for the Witness magazine Annual Literary Award in Poetry, among other contests that support and celebrate the literary arts.
Furthermore, throughout her term as Laureate, Lang-Cassera continued to teach at Nevada State College. She is a Lecturer, teaching College Success, Composition, and Creative Writing, as well as a Faculty Advisor for 300 Days of Sun, their literary magazine, and the Blue Sage Writer’s Guild, their creative writing club. Moreover, as a founder of Tolsun Books, a small nonprofit press, she has continued to contribute to the publication of books by diverse local, national, and global authors, translators, and artists. She is the World Literature Editor for The Literary Review, as well.
Of course, Lang-Cassera also keeps writing her poetry, representing Nevada through her artistic excellence, being published by renowned literary journals such as Heavy Feather Review, Lumina, Raleigh Review, and South Dakota Review, among other excellent venues and magazines, such as the Desert Companion. Her poetry was on exhibit in the Nevada Humanities’ Margaret, Are You Grieving? the exhibition, Nevada State College’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks exhibition, and elsewhere. She was featured at The Writer’s Block, on KNPR’s State of Nevada, by the Mississippi Tishomingo Arts Council, at a City of Las Vegas StorySLAM, with the Neon Lit’s Project 150 Fundraiser, by the Northern Arizona Book Festival, at the Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl, and through numerous other venues and celebrations.
Her next collection of poems, Gathering Broken Light, written in memory of those lost on 1 October, will be published by Unsolicited Press in September. The writing of this book was supported by a Project Grant for Artists as awarded by the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and the state of Nevada. Lang-Cassera will donate all royalties to a local nonprofit.
The aforementioned accomplishments are only some of what Clark County, Nevada Poet Laureate Heather Lang-Cassera has achieved during her term, and she has no plans to stop serving her community through poetry. For example, Lang-Cassera has begun working toward a Southern Nevada Nature and Ecopoetry Series. We look forward to proudly continuing to celebrate Heather Lang-Cassera as Clark County Poet Laureate Emeritus in the years to come.
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