The Nevada County Poet Laureate Program is an initiative of Nevada County Arts Council in collaboration with Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

What is a Poet Laureate and what they do?

A poet laureate is someone chosen—originally by kings, now by governments and civic groups—to represent a region by composing poems for special occasions, reading in public, and helping to focus attention on poetry as an art form. Laureate refers to wearing a crown of laurel leaves, a symbol of honor in Ancient Greece for poets and heroes. [More history and lists of laureates here.]

The Nevada County Poet Laureate Program was inaugurated at Sierra Poetry Festival in 2017 in the presence of California Poet Laureate, Dana Gioia. Our program involves writing poems to commemorate county events (the opening of the Madelyn Helling Library's new amphitheater, for instance), reading (at the Sierra Poetry Festival, the Yuba Lit readings, etc.), and developing one or more projects to boost community involvement in poetry.

Our Poets Laureate in Nevada County

Our inaugural Poet Laureate was celebrated poet, Molly Fisk. Over the course of her two-year tenure, Molly supported a community-written wall poem, ran daily writing prompts for residents, and led free monthly Poetry Hours across the county, as well as authoring poems of relevance locally. In 2019 Molly was awarded an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship, one of only thirteen inaugural fellowships nationwide. The fellowship will support Molly’s work as a poet, and help her launch an important new project called Fire and Water, which will see Molly and our new Poet Laureate, Chris Olander, help children write about the fires and floods that are increasingly devastating our state, as a way to help them process trauma and uncertainty. Fire and Water will culminate in a collection of poetry and public readings across Northern California.

Molly Fisk with California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia at the 2017 Sierra Poetry Festival.

Molly Fisk with California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia at the 2017 Sierra Poetry Festival.

Fisk was born in San Francisco, educated at Harvard, and holds an MBA from Simmons College Graduate School of Management. She lives in Nevada City, where she teaches poetry and creative writing, and works as a life coach in the Skills for Change tradition. More about Molly and be found at, at, and at

God Speaks to the Rope Swings of Summer

in his gentlest voice, reminding them
about change, about fallow fields and the quiet
everything needs to grow stronger
at facing life and death, uncertainty, joy,
obstruction. This one, hanging straight
from its branch over Oregon Creek, is listening.
He mentions the way opposing twists
will hold each other longer
and how knots keep children’s feet
from slipping. Three-ply, four, hemp or nylon,
it doesn’t matter. The creek sparkles on,
creek-like. Woodsmoke dilutes the sky’s clear blue.
A madrone leaf slowly spins downstream,
oblivious and holy.                - Molly Fisk

Nevada County’s 2019 Poet Laureate, Chris Olander (Photo: Jen Winders)

Nevada County’s 2019 Poet Laureate, Chris Olander (Photo: Jen Winders)

Welcoming Chris Olander

On April 27 2019 - at a passing of the laurels ceremony alongside Molly Fisk at Sierra Poetry Festival - we welcomed Chris Olander as our new Nevada County Poet Laureate.

Chris is a poet and bio-educator, and has taught with California Poets in the Schools since 1984. He blends performance techniques with spoken word to create what he calls an ‘Action Art Poetry - musical images phrasing to dramatize relative experiences – a poetry arising from oral and bardic traditions.’ Chris Olander’s debut book of poems is River Light. Kirk Lumpkin says, “What has always impressed me about Chris Olander’s poetry is how present, how kinetically alive the energies of nature are in it and of how the words dance in the breath and sinew of it.” 

More dynamic than listening to a recording or reading, I become the poem. I use contemporary events to bring forth and reveal mythic themes and archetypes that social and religious institutions repress through duty, shame, routine and repetitive behaviors. For me, recognition of common archetypes re-establishes respect between humans and the others of nature and renews the integrity of all individual species within the community of a given place.
— Chris Olander
Laurel leaves, a symbol of honor in ancient Greece.

Laurel leaves, a symbol of honor in ancient Greece.


He who will let his
woman walk
into her
estranged fancies -
picking wild rose blooms
from the thicket's
thorniest tendrils---
yet, still, stands
where she left him
a sage for her
and with untroubled hands
tends her bleeding fingers
knows this---
hardest thing to learn!

- Chris Olander

Questions?  Send us an email at or get in touch with Chris via email at