Aileen Cassinetto is an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and served as poet laureate of San Mateo County from 2019 to 2022. The author of two poetry collections and three chapbooks, her work has been featured in American Poets, POETRY, Cultural Daily, Marsh Hawk Press Review, KALW, and poets.org, among others. As poet laureate, she collaborated with local agencies and organizations to amplify the role of poetry in the context of larger social movements. She received a Special Congressional Recognition in 2021, and commendations from the California State Senate, California State Assembly, and San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 2022. She currently serves as a Commissioner on the Status of Women for San Mateo County, and as a member of KQED’s Community Advisory Panel.
Poem on Belonging
I AM, VILLANELLE
I am from balikbayan boxes, veiled markers of identity.
I am from sunken galleons, misspent fragment of empires.
I am from hand knotted piña fibers, a cultivar of possibilities.
I am from blue and white pottery, ghostly and full of stories.
I am from unglazed earthenware, seasoned with intent and fire.
I am from balikbayan boxes, movement of tenacity.
I am from the heartwood of wounded lign aloes, an unfortunate luxury.
I am from Glory of the Sea Cone, prized for its venom and spire.
I am from ocean crossings, an arbitrary and seaworthy possibility.
I am from repeated prayers and offerings, a Hail Mary pass and nine days to mercy.
I am from doomed love stories and ghosts with a grievance, manifesting ire and satire.
I am from a precarious bloodline, a balikbayan genealogy.
I am from the mother of all fiestas, sanguinary and exhibiting miraculously.
I am from broken rosaries, indulgence for blessed and blooded modifiers.
I am from possibilities in a family tree that doesn’t end with me.
I am from buried treaties north of an archipelago, debris of synchronicity.
I am from a chronology of losses and one wedded and wilder soothsayer.
I am from balikbayan boxes, veiled markers of identity.
I am foreshadowed in good faith, a possibility, empire of sundries.
Copyright © 2022 by Aileen Cassinetto. This poem originally appeared in The Lake County Bloom. Used with permission of the author.
Find Aileen’s books in the library!
The Pink House of Purple Yam Preserves & Other Poems (2018)
Traje de Boda (2010)
Tweet (chapbook) (2017)
I Have a Dream: Inaugural Poems for a New Generation (editor) (2021)
Speak Poetry, Volumes 1 & 2 (editor) (2019)
Poet Laureate Projects
Aileen Cassinetto was appointed by the County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors to initially serve as Poet Laureate from January 2019 to December 2020. Her term was extended twice, from January 2021 to December 2021, and from January to June 2022.
Speak Poetry in San Mateo County: Poets from the Peninsula & Beyond (2019-2022), community project and web archive, featuring local poets and youth poets and their work on belonging, with support from the County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors and the Academy of American Poets, with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
San Mateo County Youth Ecopoetry Project (June 2021-June 2022), a series of workshops, ecopoems and short poetry films on ecology, environmental justice and sustainability, in collaboration with high school students, Urban Word, Youth Climate Ambassadors, Office of Sustainability, Office of Arts & Culture, South San Francisco Library, Menlo Park Library, Daly City Public Library Associates, and Midpen Media Center, with support from The Academy of American Poets and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Filoli Ecopoetry Award, launched in 2022 to encourage poetry submissions that engage not only the beauty of nature but also the impacts of climate change.
Youth Poet Laureate Project (2020-2022), a campaign to adopt youth poet laureate/youth poets-in-residence programs around the county. Daly City named Madeleine Hur as Daly City Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate in 2021. In 2022, South San Francisco launched its Youth Poet-in-Residence program to highlight the importance of the arts in community engagement.
I Have a Dream: Inaugural Poems for a New Generation (January 2021), an anthology featuring inaugural poems by students ages 6 to 16, with support from the San Mateo County Arts Commission.
“Growing Home” (2021) and “Home Could Be Here” (May 2020), a collaboration with the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County to raise awareness of Affordable Housing Month and empower youth voices in the community through poetry and the arts.
“Poets Rise” at RISE 2022: Women’s Leadership Conference (March 2022), The Future of Women’s History: A Panel Discussion (March 2021), & “Poets Rise” at RISE 2020 (March 2020), in collaboration with the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women.
“Empower Women, Empower Earth” in collaboration with Skyline College Learning Communities.
Makerspace Poetry Lab Pilot Project (April 2022), integrates poetry into the makerspace to encourage divergent thinking and diverse perspectives, in collaboration with Redwood City Public Library and San Mateo County Libraries.
COMMUNITY & BELONGING
Skyline College Learning Communities Poetry Corner Series celebrating poetry and themes of belonging, diversity, social justice and equity.
“TAYO, Filipino Americans of San Mateo County” (October 2021), a mini-documentary highlighting the Filipino experience in San Mateo County, with support from the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco and the Daly City Public Library.
“Belonging Begins With Us” (September 2021), workshop and community poem, in collaboration with the County of San Mateo Office of Community Affairs’ Immigrant Services and Welcoming America.
“Burlingame Reads 2021” (March 2021), in collaboration with Burlingame Library.
Power to the Poets (June 2020-August 2020), a reading series of poetry, solidarity & social justice featuring poets from the East Coast & West Coast.
“Pride & Poetry” (June 2020), in honor of PRIDE Month, with support from the San Mateo County Arts Commission.
HEALING & MENTAL HEALTH
“Love in the Time of COVID-19: A Community Poem for Healthcare Workers and Other Frontliners“ (April 2020), fundraiser for the San Mateo County Health Foundation’s Covid-19 fund.
“SHELTERING: 46 poets shelter in place” (April 2020)
Filoli Haiku Competition (January 2020), a collaboration with Filoli Historic House & Garden on an annual haiku competition for all ages. Over 2,000 poems have been written about Filoli’s gardens since 2020.
ANTHOLOGIES & READINGS
Author Talks & Readings (2019-2022), including a Virtual Bookfest, in collaboration with Burlingame Library, Daly City Public Library, Menlo Park Library, Redwood City Public Library, San Mateo County Libraries, San Mateo Public Library, Skyline College Learning Communities, South San Francisco Library, and various booksellers.
Speak Poetry Vol. 2 (December 2019), a print anthology featuring work by poets from San Mateo County.
Poetry & Community Concerts (February, April & December 2019), celebrating the power of poetry and community, in collaboration with Aragon Music, the West Bay Community Band, Burlingame Library, and San Mateo County Libraries.
Speak Poetry Vol. 1 (April 2019), a print anthology featuring work by poets from San Mateo County.