This is a test site. For the most accurate information, visit


CSUMB poetry celebration will highlight Women’s History Month

Poets Rachelle Escamilla,  Ayodele Nzinga and Mahi Shah

From left, Rachelle Escamilla, Ayodele Nzinga and Mahi Shah will read their work as part of "Celebrating Women Through Poetry."

February 29, 2024

By Mark Muckenfuss

Three poets laureate will take the Cal State Monterey Bay stage March 14 as the Office of the President and Writers from the Edge present a special event marking Women’s History Month, “Celebrating Women Through Poetry.”

Monterey County Poet Laureate Rachelle Escamilla, who is also a lecturer at CSUMB, will be joined by Oakland Poet Laureate Ayodele “WordSlanger” Nzinga and Mahi Shah, the youth poet laureate for Monterey County. All three women will be reading their work. 

Escamilla will offer selections from her book, “Space Junk from the Heavenly Palace,” a Monterey-based series of poems inspired by the disintegration of an orbiting Chinese space station. She said she thinks the event shines a needed light on the medium.

“I think it’s particularly important because I think people are becoming more aware of poetry becoming part of our learning,” Escamilla said. “It’s a great way to talk about poetry becoming part of our lives and part of our community.”

The author of three collections of poetry, she has won a number of literary awards and is the former producer and host of the longest-running poetry radio show in the U.S. She has founded numerous poetry and creative writing programs in the United States as well as in China. In addition to writing poetry, she has been a food columnist and a fashion editor whose work has been published internationally.

The upcoming poetry event is another significant step. 

“It’s the first time I’ve been invited to speak at the university on a larger level,” she said, adding that it comes on the heels of her new title. “The poet laureate position is a little surreal. It hasn’t quite registered yet.”

It’s a long way from where she started when she was first trying to crack into the Bay Area poetry community.  

“I drove to San Francisco every weekend and put my name on a list of 30 other poets at the smallest open mic,” she recalls. “To teach poetry, I had to move to China.”

She was still struggling when she returned. 

“When I got to CSUMB for my interview, I had $5 in my bank account,” she said. “And it was $4 to park.”

These days, she said, “It’s just starting to pay off.”

Part of that payoff will be the event on March 14. 

“Three women of color taking the stage is just a beautiful thing,” she said. 

Another of the three is Nzinga, who is Oakland’s first poet laureate and hosts the theater production, “Winter in America: The Reckoning”. A multi-discipline artist, community advocate, arts educator and cultural architect, her work appears in numerous anthologies, including Sparkle + Blink, Painting the Streets, The Patrice Lumumba Anthology, and more. She is also the author of “Performing Literacy: A Narrative Inquiry into Performance Pedagogy,” “The Horse Eaters” and other books.

Mahi Shah, a senior at Notre Dame High School, started writing at a very early age but only discovered poetry in middle school. She won the 2022 Monterey County Poetry Out Loud competition and later became the Salinas Vice Youth Poet Laureate and the inaugural Monterey County Youth Poet Laureate. She is also the recipient of the Heinrich Team Student Poetry Scholarship.

CSUMB alumna Alie Jones, a self-care advocate, writer, artist, and Creole mermaid, will moderate the event. 

To RSVP for the event, click here