Poet Laureates, Writer’s Block, Joy

Congratulations Joy Harjo! A month ago (I’ve had writer’s block), Ms. Harjo, poet, writer and musician was named the 23rd poet laureate of the United States. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, which gives her the additional distinction of becoming the first Native American to hold the position.  Click here to read her poem, Once the World was Perfect

The term laureate means to be wreathed with laurels as a mark of honor. Like most people, I’ve seen pictures and movies of Greeks and historical figures wearing a crown of laurel wreaths, but I didn’t know until this year when Jaki Shelton Green became the Poet Laureate of North Carolina, that the honor comes with an actual wreath of laurels. Click her name to see the photo! The talented Ms. Green also has the distinction of being the third woman and the first African American to be appointed to the role.  When I went searching for a picture of a laurel wreath to accompany this blog, all I found were men, or blond women, hence the mannequin.

So what exactly is a poet laureate? The national official title is the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.  There are a few official duties, but basically the job is “to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.” For more details, visit: http://loc.gov/poetry/about_laureate.html.

You too can be a poet laureate! I encourage you to appoint yourself  poet laureate of  your place of work, your school, your book club, or just your own home. If you are not a poet, then be an advocate for any and all expressions of creativity.

I’ve been planning on writing this post for over a month, but “writer’s block.” The very phrase is synonymous with “excuse” and it’s not really accurate. I’ve had ideas, but I haven’t been able to quiet my mind, set aside the issues and concerns of “real life” and do the work of creating.  Fast forward to last night. I went to dinner to celebrate the birthday of my friend and writing mentor Judy Martel who passed away in July, 2017. A wonderful woman with a wide network of connection, her birthday has become an opportunity for friends and family to gather and remember her.  I remember the lessons  Judy. I’m here.

Now, as the Poet Laureate of my one-bedroom apartment, I am going to promote some poetry, and hopefully some joy.

Just two days ago, I came across the 2019 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest while browsing a list of Calls for Submission. Ms. Ramseyer was the mother of a writer and poet by the name of Bram Seyer. He writes this about her on his blog:  “In the last year of her life my mother, Joan Ramseyer, turned to verse to express the heat of ideas percolating in her mind, like bubbles in a teapot escaping into steam.”  The memorial contest is a way for him to honor her life and celebrate the homey poetry she wrote. The theme this year is JOY! Read the full guidelines here and consider writing and submitting a poem about joy! https://bramseyer.wordpress.com/joan-ramseyer-memorial-poetry-contest/?

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