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Kirkwood professor named Poet Laureate of Mount Vernon

By Denny West
On March 1, 2019

The City of Mount Vernon appointed Kirkwood Community College English Professor Marianne Taylor as its inaugural Poet Laureate. Mount Vernon is the smallest town in America to have such a position.  

Taylor, in her 26th year at Kirkwood, teaches literature, creative writing and ELA and has herself published over 50 poems in various anthologies and national literary journals.  After serving four years on the Mount Vernon City Council her presence was known but the position wasn’t a given.  “A number of people encouraged me to apply,” she said. “It was a competitive application process.”   

 This new position is an extension of Taylor’s accomplishments.  She said, “In some ways it does seem, for me at least, kind of a natural outreach because I get to promote poetry, which is something I love, and I get to do it in a place I really care about.”   

The position is for two years and offers a range of opportunities.  “There’s no set job description really.  What is required of the poet laureate is to engage the community in greater awareness and participation in all things’ poetry,” she explained.  “The idea is to come up with some projects.”   

It includes writing an original poem that is reflective of the community for the Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Vernon cemetery.  There is also a Poetry Box located outside the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. 

The box is made of wood and glass so everyone can read the poem as well as protecting it from unfavorable weather. As the box’s curator, Taylor posts a new poem every week. “And people walking by will have a new poem to read. … I try to pick things that are timely.  The current poem in the box right now is Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden,” she said.   

Also being planned is a Mount Vernon Area Arts Council favorite poems project.  Taking place on April 6, during National Poetry Month, Professor Taylor said it’s to “get people throughout the community to submit their favorite poem and a brief statement explaining why that poem is so important to them.”  She will then select an assortment to be read, as well as enlisting various community leaders to share their favorites as well.   

Taylor encourages people to take an active interest in poetry.  “I think that’s the thing with poetry.  It’s one of those humanities that really endure over a lifetime because you can always encounter a poem and interact with it,” she said.

Kirkwood Community College English Professor Marianne Taylor poses for a photo next to the poetry box outside the First Presbyterian Church.
Photo contributed by Marianne Taylor.


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