At the beginning of March, Madison Public Library announced that Madison Poet Laureate Angela Trudell Vasquez will serve as the library’s poet-in-residence until May.
The poet-in-residence program is a somewhat newer development, according to Madison Public Library’s Digital Services and Marketing Manager Tana Elias. This is only the second time the library has launched it.
Elias said a poet-in-residence program was initiated once before in 2019. It was based out of the Monroe Street Library with writer Susan Podebradsky holding the position at the time.
This may not be the first time that the library has introduced a poet-in-residence, but it is the first time that a poet laureate has filled the role.
In the past, the library had collaborated on other events with Trudell Vasquez. When the library decided to reinstate the program, they asked her if she’d be interested in a position as poet-in-residence. As soon as discussions began about the role and the work that came with it, Trudell Vasquez said she knew that she was on board.
Trudell Vasquez said becoming involved in Madison Public Library’s programming was something that she had wanted to do for a while. When speaking about her desire to work with Madison Public Library, Trudell Vasquez recalled the experiences that she had with libraries while growing up in Iowa.
“I really love what libraries do, and as a young writer and reader, the library was everything to me,” Trudell Vasquez said. “I could travel in ways that I couldn’t in my small area of Iowa. So, for me, libraries have been really important.”
Since Trudell Vasquez and the library have connected, they’ve had several discussions about the programming that will occur during her residency. She has many workshops, collaborations and projects to look forward to.
One of the projects includes the Bus Line Poetry Project, a competition in collaboration with Madison Metro Transit and Edgewood College. As a part of the project, community members are invited to submit a poem on the Metro Transit website, based around the theme “Dream a Future.”
Trudell Vasquez will choose 18 poems from the submissions that are received. From there, she’ll meet with Edgewood College design students to discuss the artwork they’ll create in response to these poems. She describes this specific art-making process as “reverse ekphrastic poetry.” Ekphrastic poems create detailed descriptions of a scene or a piece of art.
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Once students have finished their poetry-based artwork, it will be displayed in an art exhibit at Pinney Library on Cottage Grove Road. Elias said the library is developing an exhibit schedule for its other locations as well. In addition to the exhibits, a reception for the project will also be held at Pinney Library June 16.
“This year, I’m really excited because it’s going to be seen by more people. So, all the work that we put into this project — which is significant — will then travel from library to library so the patrons can see it,” Trudell Vasquez said.
Another project that Trudell Vasquez is currently involved in as a poet-in-residence features “poetry maker kits,” which are available at each public library in Madison. These kits offer ways for the community to provide artistic responses to Trudell Vasquez’s poem “Tree Friends,” as the kits include different art supplies.
The community was invited to submit their kits online or at any library location until the deadline on March 18. After kit responses are collected, they’ll be shown in public libraries across the city.
Among the several other events that will occur over the next two months, the “Poetry and Nature Workshop for Kids” — with Carolyn Byers, an Audubon Society educator — stood out to Trudell Vasquez.
“I’m excited to see what response the young students will have to what she’s bringing because I think nature is all around us, and I infuse my work with nature all the time,” Trudell Vasquez said. “So that’s going to be really cool — not just for the participants but for me, too. ”
Trudell Vasquez also mentioned plans for a bilingual poetry and dance workshop. For this event, she’ll invite a Milwaukee-based dance teacher to provide a space in which families can create their own movement-based responses to “Tree Friends.”
Likewise, she talked about a collaborative workshop with Teena Wilder, a Bubbler Artist Cohort member. The workshop will be offered to teens and tweens at multiple libraries and will focus on poetic performance and movement.
Throughout her residency, Trudell Vasquez said her goal will be to create an environment in which everyone can have fun and create connections to poetry.
“I just want people to have a good time, to feel encouraged, and to spark that creativity gene in folks. I think poetry can do a lot of things. It’s a connector, it’s a healer, it helps us show empathy for others,” Trudell Vasquez said.
To learn more about upcoming activities related to the poet-in-residence program, visit her website. Additionally, to hear Trudell Vasquez read from her newest collection, “My People Redux,” visit Central Library April 7.