It has been my pleasure to serve, for the past three years, as Bethel's first-ever poet laureate. But just what is a poet laureate? Most of the towns in CT now have them, the state itself has a laureate, Margaret Gibson, and the USA has a laureate too, Joy Harjo. "Poet laureate" is an honorary position; the laureate is charged with the task of bringing poetry to others in whatever way the laureate chooses.
During my three years, I focused on putting poetry books into peoples' hands by leaving books anywhere people had to wait - in restaurants, banks, laundromats, doctors' offices, bus stops, park benches, car repair shops, physical therapy offices, etc., and in 2021 by hiding books throughout Bethel in grocery stores, pharmacies, the train station, delis, and a long list of other locations. Byrd's Books and I also held a many-month long poetry book giveaway. Wanting people to hear poetry as well, I presented a series of "poets and their poetry" talks at Bethel Library, offered poetry writing workshops, and hosted live and zoomed readings. It was great fun, but now it's time to pass the torch to Bethel's new poet laureate, Rick Magee!
Rick grew up in California and started writing about the same time he discovered reading. At nine, he went on a poetry-writing binge, and even had his poems sent to Highlights Magazine. Alas, rejected, he still has the Highlights rejection letter! He majored in English at UC Berkeley, studying poetry with Gary Soto, one of the “Fresno Poets” who studied with Philip Larkin.
After graduation, Rick started his MA at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, studying literature and again studying poetry writing. In 1995, he ventured to NYC and graduated from Fordham University with a PhD.
Rick has been teaching literature (mainly American lit) and writing classes at Sacred Heart University for 19 years, occasionally teaching poetry writing in the SHU program in Dingle, Ireland. In May, he hopes to return to Rome to teach a food writing class. Poetry is everywhere!
Asked about his favorite poets, he named Whitman, Dickinson, and Melville, whose poems, he said, don’t get as much love as they deserve. He reads Kim Addonizio (his favorite), Billy Collins, Louise Glück, and Seamus Heaney, who he has met. He was also fortunate to meet Allen Ginsberg and Laurence Ferlinghetti, and still admires the way the Beats’ poetry has, "that insanely addicting, driving rhythm."
Rick is an award-winning and well published poet, and he's a poetry facilitator at SHU where he chairs a group of faculty and students who write and discuss poetry and "have a lot of fun." He's working on a book of poems rooted in particular places called “Green Latitudes.” Rick says, "One of the things I try to do when I write is to create language that feels dense and chewy, like a really fudgy brownie, in my mouth."
Welcome Rick! We look forward to all the ways you will bring poetry to Bethel!