Westport’s Poet Laureate Raps With “06880”

During her 22 years in Westport, Diane Meyer Lowman has done a lot.

As her 2 sons moved through the school system, she was involved in many PTA ventures, including ArtSmart. She helped formalize and coordinate Staples High School’s library volunteer program, and was on the district’s food committee.

She was a substitute Spanish teacher, at Staples and the middle schools. She did pro bono nutritional consulting for Homes with Hope. She teaches yoga at Town Hall.

But until a few days ago, Diane — a graduate of Middlebury College, with a master’s in Shakespeare studies from Britain’s University of Birmingham — had never been Westport’s poet laureate.

That’s okay. Until a few days ago, we’d never had a poet laureate either.

Diane Lowman (Photo/Jane LaMotta)

If you missed the announcement, you’re not alone. It came in the middle of the Westport Library’s opening-day ceremonies. (The library was part of the selection process, along with the superintendent of schools’ office and the town Arts Advisory Committee, which manages the poet laureate program.)

The application process was rigorous: a resume, personal statement, 4 letters of recommendation, and several interviews. “It was like applying to college,” she says.

So what exactly does Westport’s poet laureate do?

Good question.

The job description includes the importance of promoting poetry as a form of communication, inspiration and entertainment; expanding and promoting awareness and appreciation of poetry and writing in general, and advocating for poetry, literature and the arts.

Diane admits she is not a poet, per se. (She has, however, written 1600 haiku.)

“This is the inaugural position,” she says. “There’s no template. But I’ve got some good ideas.”

They include working closely with schools, the library and the arts community; helping students and senior citizens collaborate through writing; organizing poetry slams at places like Toquet Hall and the library; bringing a “Poetry on Demand” desk (and local poets) to townwide events; putting bulletin boards around Westport, for anyone to post poems; working with ArtSmart, the Westport Arts Center and Artists’ Collective of Westport to include poetry alongside exhibitions; integrating poetry into WestportREADS — stuff like that.

“I wake up every morning thinking of something new,” Diane says.

She welcomes ideas from the community. “This is not about me. It’s about Westport,” she explains.

Diane knows that the word “poetry” can be intimidating to some people. When she studied Shakespeare, she realized that his name too carries “a cultural cachet that can feel elitist or off-putting.”

But, she insists, “everyone can read and write poetry. It’s just another way to communicate feelings. It makes us realize how much we all have in common, whether we’re seniors in high school or seniors at the Senior Center.”

Her favorite poets are Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, and her son Dustin. (He’s midway through an MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her other son, Devon, is an artist and art  handler, also in Chicago.)

Devon, Diane and Dustin Lowman.

There’s no type of poetry Diane does not like — except “poems that intentionally try to be difficult. Challenge is fine. Thinking, reflecting, questioning — that’s good. But it’s not good to make someone feel dumb or stuck.”

Westport’s new poet laureate — who began her honorary, non-compensated 2-year post on July 1 — is both excited and humbled.

“I’m so appreciative of this community,” Diane says. “I’m so glad to be able to give back to it. I know it sounds trite, but I’m very enthusiastic and excited.”

No, not at all.

Not trite; quite right.

(Westport poet laureate Diane Meyer Lowman welcomes all suggestions and ideas. Email waac@westportct.gov — with “Poetry” in the subject line — or dilo922@gmail.com)

9 responses to “Westport’s Poet Laureate Raps With “06880”

  1. Dan- THANK YOU SO MUCH! It’s poetry to my ears 🙂 Many thanks again- couldn’t have said it better myself!!! D

    Namaste from my iPhone

    >

  2. Richard Fogel

    great looking family. The boys Lowman are quite a Showman.

  3. Deborah Findley

    Congratulations Diane! Thank you for enrichening our community… we look forward to reading!

  4. A. David Wunsch

    Dan: please post a Haiku that she has written. Thanks
    A David Staples 1956

  5. Westport Public Art Collections is looking forward to collaborating with Diane, our new poet laureate too! We can only imagine the exciting projects ahead for her and this new post! Congrats!

  6. Great idea! Robert Frost was such an inspiration when I was very young. And I had a 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Bailowitz, at PS 179 in Queens who was so encouraging when I decided to take a stab at poetry–and, to borrow from Frost, that made all the difference.

  7. Pam Barkentin

    How fabulous!!! Thank you, Diane, for sharing your talent and gifts with our town. We are a better place for it! Gratitude too for the ways you have enriched both of my children in very special ways through ArtSmarts, Little League, and of course school Library. You are a treasure to our community!

  8. Thank you! Lovely! (Diane is so funny- she is absolutely a poet! I am really looking forward to her term!)

    -Kelle

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  9. Jill Greenberg

    interesting and happy

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