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Word up


May 8, 2009

When Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library chose Susan Firer as Milwaukee’s poet laureate for 2008-09, library director Paula Kiely said, "I know you will be a great ambassador for the library and for poetry."

The Whitefish Bay resident is the fifth poet to hold the honorary position. The laureate project aims to reaffirm the role of poets in society. The assistant English professor at UW-Milwaukee and award-winning author of five published books of poetry embarked with passion on trips to Nebraska, Kansas, Utah, Chicago and Madison for readings, workshops and panel discussions with other poet laureates. Collaborative programs with musicians and artists, student groups, book festivals and interviews followed. Recently she recorded her poem, "Call Me Pier," for animation to be shown on public transportation systems in six cities.

What’s most enjoyable about being poet laureate?

"It’s rewarding to share ideas about poetry, including my own work, with new groups of readers and listeners who love poetry — as well as with those who are not as sure about it."

Why is poetry important?

"Poetry helps us pay attention to our lives, to language and the connection between them. Poetry also helps us pay attention to each other and the beauty and terror of the world."

What inspired you to write poetry?

"My first poem was published in a high school literary magazine. I was attracted to the great sounds, portability and elasticity of poetry. Poetry seemed a site of sanity where I could howl, celebrate, grieve and explore the sense and nonsense of the world, language and myself."

This story ran in the April 2009 issue of: