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Search to begin for New London's next poet laureate

New London — A volunteer group has begun the task of exploring the city’s expansive art scene to find the next New London poet laureate.

Rhonda Ward, named the city’s first poet laureate in 2017, is finishing her three-year term and has joined the five-member Poet Laureate Selection Committee. The group is tasked with formulating the criteria and setting the application process, as well as culling through applications to make a recommendation to the mayor.

The creation of the position highlights the importance of the arts in New London and provides the opportunity to incorporate poetry into city activities, said Tracee Reiser, the newly-elected chairwoman of the selection committee.

The official launch of the selection process will begin Dec. 7 with an announcement from Reona Dyess, the city council’s liaison to the committee. The committee’s work will culminate in April — National Poetry Month — with the naming of the new poet laureate. April is National Poetry Month.

Ward, at the selection committee’s inaugural meeting, said she appreciates the city giving voice to poetry and helping to expand its reach. She said she was “ecstatic” to have been the city’s first poet laureate.

It’s not just being a poet, Ward said, but also a poet of events and circumstances that Ward said served to help her grow as a poet.

“It’s one of the things I appreciated. You have to do some research to write some of these poems,” Ward said.

The position was created to promote and encourage creation of poetry in the city and engage the community in new ways. The poet laureate also agrees to regular public appearances and participation in an annual poetry reading event at the Public Library of New London and at various city events.

City Planner Sybil Tetteh is providing technical assistance to the process, including the gathering and processing of application. Applications are expected to be advertised and linked on the city’s website once the document has been finalized.

Other members of the selection committee include University of Connecticut student Chloe Murphy; Clayton Potter, civic engagement and communications coordinator at Connecticut College’s Hollaran Center for Community Action; and scholar and playwright Michael Bradford, vice provost for faculty, staff and student development at UConn.

Murphy is serving as vice chairwoman of the committee and agreed, with other committee members, that there should be a special emphasis on outreach to youth groups.


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