Tag Archives: Westport poet laureate

New Poet Laureate Reacts To Roe

Jessie McEntee does not become Westport’s poet laureate until July 1.

But in the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that declared Roe v. Wade to be unconstitutional, she offered these thoughts:

Dear Westport neighbors:

This is admittedly a cringe-y and self-serving way of introducing myself. But as the poet laureate-appointee, I want to share a poem I wrote a few years back from my chapbook, a response to #MeToo.

Poet laureate-designee Jessica Noyes McIntee.

It might offend you if, say, you’re a rah rah handsy sexual harasser. If you’re anti-rah rah handsy sexual harasser, but you popped a bottle of Champagne at Friday’s news, you might read it as a way of saying, HANDS OFF, INDIVIDUAL HANDSY SEXUAL HARASSER.

If you’re anti-rah rah handsy sexual harasser AND you declined to pop a bottle of Champagne at Friday’s news, you might — just might — read it as a way of saying, HANDS OFF MY BODY on a larger scale. I leave it to your interpretation.

In Defense of Vulnerable Men

hips spangled with store-bought stars,
lashes blackened with clarified soot,
and rows of roses planted upon our cheeks.
we sweep our lids with patches
yanked from clouds and seas.

Look at us —
how we ask for it
as we loll about in public parks,
midday, airing our breasts, necks —
in full view — all while saying,
Oh, no, we only want
attention from the summer’s sun.
(Does the town butcher ever declare,
I’d prefer not to
sell that pink ground chuck
I just put out on display,
bound in shimmering cellophane?)

We’re ubiquitous, diffuse —
we besmirch your efforts to stay pure
for the respectable women you keep on retainer.
You escape to church;
we become the frothing thuribles that circle about,
then the incense that swells the air,
all while we remain remote.

You’re the victims, here,
when you consider such provocations.
Why, when you think of how we tattoo ourselves
with secret codes
slipped into ankles, lower backs, divots —
aren’t those implicit dares
to come hither —
and, (please!) offer us
the favor of your closest translation?

Your Power dismantled,
your delicate manhood muddled —
you insist upon it:
we must be braille.
Fingers splayed, you lean in
to prove it.

Meet And Greet New Poet Laureate

Here’s news both bittersweet and great:
After 3 years, Westport has a new poet laureate.

Hopefully, she’s a better poet than I am.

Diane Lowman’s 3 years as Westport’s poet-in-residence ends June 30. She’ll pass the torch — or pen, or computer keyboard or whatever — next Wednesday (June 29), at a noontime Westport Library ceremony.

Our new poet laureate is Jessica Noyes McEntee. Her 2-year term begins July 1.

McEntee, her husband, 2 young children (now teenagers) and pets moved into a historic Westport house in 2013. She is active in the community, serving on the boards of the Westport Young Woman’s League and Save Westport Now.

She’s also a working poet. Her debut chapbook, Jackie O. Suffers Two Husbands & Other Poems, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. She’s taught at Westport Writers’ Workshop since 2015,

Poet laureate-designee Jessica Noyes McEntee.

Poet laureate is not a full-time gig. McEntee works in marketing for the Pequot Library in Southport. The Amherst College graduate was previously an editor at John Wiley & Sons.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee oversaw the selection process of the new laureate. Applicants met with a selection committee that included members of the WAAC, Westport Public Schools and the Westport Library. McEntee was officially appointed by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.

As Westport’s first poet laureate,  her predecessor Lowman enriched town meetings, collaborated with schools, and ran workshops for the Senior Center. She recited  original haikus at many local events, including the dedication of the reimagined Library in 2019.

Diane Lowman (Photo/Jane LaMotta)

Don’t Wait! Be Great! Our Next Poet Laureate!

Forget 1st selectwoman. Who cares about superintendent of schools?

The real cool job is … Westport’s poet laureate.

The position comes vacant July 1. Diane Lowman — our first (and so far only) town poet completes her term June 30.

During her tenure, she recited and curated poetry at town ceremonies and events, schools, Senior Center, Library and arts events.

Diane was particularly creative during the pandemic, launching a lawn sign campaign to help raise spirits.

Haiku, by Westport poet laureate Diane Lowman

Westport’s poet laureate serves as an ambassador for both the town and the literary form, helping continue our vibrant literary history.

Specifically, the poet laureate:

  • Promotes poetry as a form of communication, inspiration, and entertainment for local residents.
  • Participates in Connecticut Poet Laureate group programs throughout the state.
  • Expands access to, and creates connection through, poetry.
  • Elevates awareness of and appreciation for all forms of poetry.
  • Advocates for poetry, literature and the arts.
  • Contributes to the town’s literary legacy through public readings and participation in civic events.

The First Selectwoman’s office appoints the poet laureate. The Westport Arts Advisory Committee administers the program.

Diane Meyer Lowman with her haiku, at the Westport Book Shop.

Candidates should be 21 years of age or older, live in Westport, and have a wide range of relevant knowledge and experience. They must be comfortable with public speaking, and willing to work collaboratively with the school district, Library and other cultural organizations to develop and present poetry-related activities and events.

Of course — this being poetry — the position is honorary and non-compensated. The term runs for 2 years.

Click here for the application packet. The deadline is April 15. Questions? Email waac@westportct.gov,with the subject line “Poet.”

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)

Roses Are Red. Violets Are Blue. We Need A Poet Laureate. How About You?

Move over, Robert Frost.

Take a hike, Maya Angelou.

Westport is looking for a real poet.

The Arts Advisory Committee is accepting applications for the position of town poet laureate.

The goal is to elevate poetry in our consciousness, and celebrate and continue Westport’s vibrant literary history.

Walt Whitman could not be our poet laureate. He did not live in Westport. Plus, he’s dead.

Our poet laureate will expand and promote our appreciation not just for poetry, but the spoken word and writing in general. He or she will advocate for poetry, literature and the arts, and contribute to our legacy through public reading and civic events.

The poet laureate will also “summon a spirit of celebration, reflection and healing,” and “utilize Westport’s natural and human resources to promote poetry in the community.”

Eligible candidates must be poets with a wide range of experience and knowledge; residents of Westport, at least 21 years old and willing to collaborate with the school district, library and cultural institutions. The position is for 2 years, and is unpaid.

For more information, click here. To apply, click here. The deadline is May 31.