If you’re a poet and you know it, it’s time to show it. The search is on for Superior’s first poet laureate. Hopefuls have until Oct. 15 to submit an application for the position.
A poet laureate works with cultural and educational organizations to encourage the public to express literary creativity, sharing the art form with all age groups.
“We are hoping a poet laureate in Superior will present poetry programs that are accessible to the community, bring more poetry into the schools, facilitate workshops, open mics and other public programs,” said Jan Chronister, president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and member of the Superior Poet Laureate Committee.
Wisconsin has had a poet laureate since 2000; Minnesota's first official poet laureate was appointed in 2008. Duluth has had one since 2005. Kay Karras served as the village of Solon Springs poet laureate from 2007-08.
The impetus to create a Superior position began when a local poet contacted Chronister and asked to represent the city.
“I figured some kind of application process needed to be put in place,” said Chronister, of Maple.
She reached out to Jim Perlman, founder of the Duluth Poet Laureate Project, for help wording the application and setting up a process.
A committee was formed featuring representatives from the University of Wisconsin Superior, Superior Council for the Arts, Superior Public Library, local poets and a retired English teacher. Now, they’re ready to read some poetry.
Applicants must have resided in the School District of Superior for three of the last 10 years and remain a resident during the two-year appointment. The committee is seeking a local poet who has made significant contributions to the literary community and demonstrated excellence in poetry written for and about the area. Applicants are asked to list their published work over the past five years and submit at least 10 pages of original poems.
Superior’s first poet laureate will serve a two-year term beginning in January 2020. It is an unpaid position.
When funding was cut for Wisconsin’s poet laureate position in 2011, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters “swooped in” to keep it going, according to associate director Jason Smith.
“The Academy feels that poetry can communicate love, joy, sorrow, surprise, discovery — just about every aspect of the human experience — in a unique and accessible manner," Smith said. "Having a dedicated position in which a poet is asked to bring the human experience through verse to every community — and to help bring those communities into a clearer understanding of themselves, and, perhaps, the world — is a powerful thing."
Other Wisconsin communities with poet laureate programs include Milwaukee, Madison, Wales, Bayfield and Door County. Some are city programs, others like Bayfield are administered by the library. Some, like Duluth’s, are independent of government.
The Superior Poet Laureate Committee launched its Facebook page Aug. 20. Within a week, it had more than 100 likes. As of Aug. 30, it had 104 followers.
“I personally hope that what we are doing in Superior can be replicated in other northwest Wisconsin communities such as Ashland and Spooner,” Chronister said. “No town is too small to have a poet laureate.”
Applicants must submit a cover letter, completed application, list of published works, writing sample, and brief biography via email to email@example.com or via U.S. mail to Jan Chronister, 3931 South Country Road O, Maple, WI 54854. Completed applications may also be dropped off at Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Ave., Superior. Applications are available at the Superior Public Library.