It’s hard not to run into UC Davis professor Andy Jones. On Monday nights, the English prof becomes the quiz master at de Vere’s Irish Pub, where he circles the crowded bar, microphone in hand, issuing questions to trivia fans.
On Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m., Jones broadcasts his long-standing radio show, “Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour,” for which he’s interviewed everyone from novelist and poet Margaret Atwood to the late political cartoonist Rex Babin.
And on the first and third Thursdays, you’ll find him at the John Natsoulas Gallery, hosting a poetry reading, which he’s done for the past eight years.
Now as the city of Davis’ third poet laureate, Jones will be even more prominent as the city’s most well-known advocate for the arts.
Described by outgoing poet laureate Eve West Bessier as Davis’ “longtime unofficial poet laureate,” Jones was recently appointed to the position he co-created with friend Ron Glick more than four years ago. (Allegra Silberstein was Davis’ first poet laureate.) He will assume the post starting Sept. 1.
“Some people say that I already do a lot of the work that a poet laureate should do,” Jones said. “I co-wrote the position because I wanted to spread the responsibility and create opportunities for other people to do interesting projects. I ended up applying because I have some projects that I want to spend more time on and want to bring more attention to.”
Jones first came to UCD in 1990 to pursue a Ph.D. in literature, and has worked as an instructor at the university since then, teaching courses on performance poetry, the works of T.S. Eliot and poetry writing. Jones also serves as UCD’s associate director of academic technology services and editor of the university’s instructional technology blog.
In 2006, the professor was named Educator of the Year by the Associated Students of UCD.
“Andy has a great gift to encourage people to grow artistically,” said Evan White, a former student and current colleague of Jones. “I absolutely would not have had a fraction of the opportunities I had during my time at UC Davis without his help.”
Outside of the classroom, Bessier said the professor’s ability to “take poetry out of an intellectual context, integrate it into people’s everyday lives and make it fun” will serve him well as the city’s poet laureate.
Jones will serve a two-year term for which the already-busy professor has a lot planned. One of the biggest projects on his plate is a video compilation of notable Davisites reading excerpts from their favorite poems. Jones hopes to include footage of Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk, UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi reciting poetry in her native Greek, as well as Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, who Jones says has written a number of original poems.
Also in the works is a series of ephrastic poems (a literary term for poems accompanying art in mediums like painting or sculpture). In the coming months, Jones — the chair of Davis’ Cultural Action Committee — will commission poems for some of the city’s iconic public art pieces, like “The Joggers” at Third and F streets and the newly completed mural on the walls of the First and F streets parking garage.
“Davisites are lucky that they live in a city with a really vibrant downtown arts scene,” Jones said. “One of my goals as poet laureate is to help and compel more people to take advantage of what poetry has to offer them.”
Jones’ appointment comes on the heels of the release of his second book, “Where’s Jukie?” which he wrote with his wife, Kate Duren, and published with the help of White. A mix of essays and poems, the book centers on his son Jukie, 13, who was born with Smith-Lemli-Opitz, a rare metabolic disorder. All proceeds from the book will go toward researching the disorder.
Jones’ next book of poetry, “Tentacle,” which will feature several persona poems, is scheduled for publication next year.
Readers interested in the ephrastic poetry project or other activities Jones has planned during his term can visit his website, www.andyojones.com.