Published On: Wed, Apr 9th, 2014

Library Lines

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I’m very excited to announce that Marc Harshman, the poet laureate of West Virginia, will be visiting McClintic Library on Wednesday, April 23, to read some of his poetry and talk about his writing. Not only is Mr. Harshman a poet, but he writes picture books and poetry for children, and so he will also be visiting the elementary and middle schools in the county. A list of times will be elsewhere in the paper, and we want to emphasize that everyone is welcome to attend the school events, as well as the library’s evening reception, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

So, as I said, I’m excited about this visit.

The poet laureate of the entire state—that’s kind of a big deal! But then I got to thinking, what, exactly, is a poet laureate?

I’ve heard and used the phrase for years, but if pushed to define it – I was uncertain. I did a little research and found out that a poet laureate is officially appointed by a government or other institution. He or she is often expected to compose poems for special events. No pressure there!

In the case of West Virginia, the position was created in 1927, and the governor appoints the poet laureate, our first being Karl Dewey Myers, who served from 1927 until 1937. You can read an excellent account of Dewey and his life written by Roxy Todd at www.traveling219.com. Once at the home page, select “Deep Creek Lake to Elkins” to see “Finding Dewey: the search for West Virginia’s first Poet Laureate along the backroads of US 219.”

Poke around the entire website while you’re there. It has some great stories and old photos!

Of course, we all know of Louise McNeill, who was the poet laureate from 1979 until 1993, and who remains a source of pride for all of us in Pocahontas County. After Louise passed away, Irene McKinney was appointed to the position. When she died in February 2012, Marc Harshman got the call a few months later. In fact, he was teaching a workshop, and ignored his cell phone, never realizing until later that he had ignored an invitation to become West Virginia’s ninth poet laureate!

Originally from Indiana, Mr. Harshman has lived most of his adult life in Wheeling with his wife and daughter.

“I grew up as a farm boy, and I’ve always found myself very welcomed here. There’s a sense of community here regardless if you live in a rural or urban area, and that sense of community is very important to my work.”

I would imagine he’ll be pleased to get to know Louise McNeill’s community, and to see firsthand the beauty that influenced her writing.

Be sure and join us on April 23 for this unique opportunity to meet and visit with our state’s laureate.

 

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