For two years, Dennis Hinrichsen has served as Lansing’s first Poet Laureate. As his term ends, a new poet laureate has been named. Laura Apol is an associate professor of literacy and curriculum in the Michigan State University College of Education.
Lansing’s poet laureate is sponsored by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, the MSU Center for Poetry and the Lansing Poetry Club.
A public “passing of the laurel” will be held Friday at 5 p.m. at Urban Beat in Old Town Lansing.
Apol came in for a talk with WKAR’s Scott Pohl. She began by reading her poem "Nothing Begins With Us."
SCOTT POHL: You've been inspired by, and worked in, Africa. What made you want to become Poet Laureate of the city of Lansing?
LAURA APOL: I think the work that I did in Africa helped me understand the importance of place and the ways we talk about place. When I worked in Rwanda, I was clearly an outsider coming in and working with young people, people there who had survived the genocide against the Tutsi. It gave me a real sense both of how important it was for them to be able to find words, but also how important it was for me to be able to come back to my own context and carry things with me that I had learned, and then to write about them.
POHL: When you're appointed Lansing’s Poet Laureate, it's a two year appointment. Two years ago, Dennis Henrickson was appointed as the first Poet Laureate for Lansing. I wonder if you followed his work in the job.
APOL: I think that having a poet laureate in the Lansing area is terrific. Michigan doesn't have a state Poet Laureate, most states do so. Instead, there are more local poet laureates for cities and regions. Having a poet laureate in the Lansing area really brings attention to poetry, and Dennis did a fantastic job in his two years of bringing poetry around the area, doing workshops, doing readings, he did the sidewalk poetry project. There was a lot of attention that came to poetry and a lot of people who might not otherwise have been involved in poetry, reading, writing, who suddenly saw poetry, heard poetry, and even had a chance to write poetry.
POHL: So now you have a two year appointment as Lansing's Poet Laureate. Tell me about your plans and goals.
APOL: Well, certainly, I want to continue the good work that Dennis started. I think part of the laureateship is intended to grow things across time, and so it's important to continue the things that have begun, but of course, a single Poet Laureate can't get everything done that he or that institutions might wish for. So, I think that's the first thing is to continue that work, but I also have some ideas about bringing poetry to businesses that may not already have poetry as part of them.
One thing I'd really love to do and this is an important thing to talk with you at WKAR about is to have poetry on the air. I'd love to have poets come in, new poets, young poets, elementary school students, and read poetry so that people who listen to WKAR can tune in and hear some poetry at various times in the week.