March 16, 2024

Celebrating Words and Community: Salem Introduces Poet Laureate Program

by cns2020

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In a move that underscores the city’s deep-rooted appreciation for arts and culture, Mayor Dominick Pangallo has announced the formation of the Salem Poet Laureate Program. This initiative, a collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and the Salem Public Library, aims to spotlight the profound impact of poetry within the Salem community. As we approach National Poetry Month this April, the city prepares to embrace the art of the spoken word like never before.

Mayor Pangallo shared his enthusiasm for the program, noting, “As a City with a deep commitment to the arts, it’s so fitting that we celebrate the art of the spoken word.” He further emphasized the program’s goal to elevate local writers who encapsulate Salem’s spirit, resilience, and aspirations through their poetry. The Mayor expressed his gratitude towards the Salem Poet Laureate Selection Committee (SPLSC) volunteer members, who are pivotal in propelling this initiative forward.

The SPLSC, chaired by Salem Public Library Director Tara Mansfield, selects Salem’s inaugural Poet Laureate. The committee will ensure an equitable selection process by using detailed guidelines and rubrics. The chosen Poet Laureate will serve a two-year term starting in January 2025 and contribute significantly to Salem’s cultural landscape.

The SPLSC boasts a diverse membership, each bringing unique perspectives and expertise:

  • Colin Perry: Colin Perry teaches 8th grade English Language Arts at Collins Middle School in Salem. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education and English Literature from Lesley University, and is currently a graduate student at Salem State University. He is a resident of Salem, and enjoys reading fiction and poetry, in addition to writing and performing music in his free time

    Tara Mansfield: Tara Mansfield is the Director of the Salem Public Library, and was formerly the Assistant Director and the Head of Circulation. She attended storytime as a child, which inspired her lifelong love of reading. She has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and enjoys helping others discover the joy of reading and the many other wonderful resources that the library offers

    Jean Marie Procious: Jean Marie Procious is the Executive Director of the Salem Athenaeum and the Salem Literary Festival co-chair. She is a librarian and archivist with degrees from Simmons University and Hiram College. An avid reader and pie baker, her activities include serving as a trustee of Harmony Grove Cemetery, volunteering with local nonprofits, and game night with friends, her husband, two kids, and two cats.

    M.P Carver:  M.P. Carver is a poet and visual artist from Salem, MA. She has served as Director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival since it returned to Salem in 2021. She is the miCrO-Founder of Molecule: a tiny lit mag, and she teaches creative writing at Salem State University. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in the literary magazines Rattle, Mantis, and Jubilat, among others. She has received funding from the Essex County Community Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. In 2022 her poem “You & God & I” was awarded the New England Poetry Club’s E.E. Cummings Prize, and in 2023 her visual poem “In Vitro” was a finalist for the Connecticut River Review’s Experimental Poetry Contest. Her first chapbook, Selachipmorpha, was published by Incessant Pipe in 2015, and her second collection, Hard Up, is forthcoming from Lily Review Books in 2024.

    John Andrews: John Andrews founded Creative Collective, a Salem, MA-based organization that fosters economic development and supports creative entrepreneurs across the North Shore. Passionate about building inclusive communities, he leads with a commitment to empowering artists, small businesses, and creators to achieve their greatest potential.

    January O’Neill: January Gill O’Neil is an associate professor at Salem State University and the author of Glitter Road (2024), Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), all published by CavanKerry Press. From 2012-2018, she served as the Massachusetts Poetry Festival’s executive director; from  2019-2020, she served as the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. O’Neil lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.

    Kerry Rourke: Kerry Rourke is an Associate Teaching Professor of English at Babson College, a Salem Public Library Trustee, a reader, a parent, and a lifelong resident of the North Shore. She learned to read and appreciate literature from her grandmother, Agnes Harney, a Salemite and former City employee who worked as both a teacher and a Parks Department employee.  Kerry and her family live in her family’s Salem home.

    Regina Zaragoza: Regina hails from Querétaro, México, and currently serves as the inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for the City of Salem. Her role was established to elevate issues of race and equity within the City’s operations, influencing all departments through a variety of initiatives. These initiatives include conducting an equity audit, facilitating ongoing DEI training and dialogues on equity with all City staff, and implementing language justice. Regina amplifies anti-hate, anti-bias, and anti-discrimination efforts and implements the recommendations of the Race Equity Commission, Race Equity Task Force, and Human Rights Coalition. Her role extends beyond internal operations as she seeks to bridge the City and community, particularly focusing on the needs of historically underrepresented and systematically excluded individuals.

This new chapter in Salem’s cultural journey offers an exciting opportunity for poets to contribute to the city’s vibrant arts scene. Applications for the Poet Laureate position open on April 1st and close on May 31st. For more details on how to apply, eligibility, and submission guidelines, please visit Salem’s Poet Laureate Program page.

The Salem Poet Laureate Program promises to enrich the city’s arts and culture landscape, celebrating the power of poetry to connect, inspire, and reflect the community’s collective journey.