Michael Morain, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, says poets laureate are people who can relate to the human experience in an elegant way and make us “think more deeply about everyday stuff.”
“They are always, always people who have interesting, varied life experiences and can translate those experiences into words that ordinary folks can relate to,” Morain says. “You will never find a successful poet who just holes up in an office somewhere and just imagines how to put letters onto a page.” There have only been three previous Iowa poets laureate.
The first was Iowa Writers’ Workshop professor Marvin Bell, who served two terms beginning in 2000. The following two poets laureate were Robert Dana, a former World War Two radio operator who taught for 40 years at Cornell College, and Mary Swander, a professor emerita of English at Iowa State University. While you don’t get paid, Morain says there’s wonderful exposure and invaluable experience.
“This is an honorary two-year term, appointed by the governor,” Morain says. “Really, it’s an opportunity to celebrate all of the good writing that is going on statewide and to get Iowans to think about the written word a little more carefully.” Governor Kim Reynolds will appoint the next poet laureate from a list of three nominees chosen by a volunteer committee created by the Iowa Arts Council and Humanities Iowa. In the selection process, the committee will consider poets whose work is of the highest caliber and speaks to the diverse voices of the people and poetry of Iowa.
“For as many words as we speak all day,” Morain says, “I think it’s reassuring to know that there are people who are thinking really deliberately and intentionally about how to put those words together in a way that makes the most of them and that really packs a lot of meaning into just a few words sometimes.” The deadline for nominations is July 1st.
You can nominate yourself or someone else using the online nomination form at this website: https://iowaculture.gov/arts/opportunities/arts-recognition/iowa-poet-laureate