Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday: New Indiana Poet Laureate Named

Read poetry—lots of it! . . . And write every day. . . 
Something else I've learned is how important
it is to have a receptive attitude when starting
a poem. . . approach it as an explorer. . . .
~ Shari Wagner's Advice to Young Poets*

Shari Wagner takes office as Indiana's new Poet Laureate on January 1, 2016. Her term is two years; she serves through December 31, 2017.

Wagner is Indiana's sixth Poet Laureate. Background on the Poet Laureate position is found in my profile of Norbert Krapf (2008-2010).

The successor of George Kalameras, Wagner plans during her tenure to travel throughout Indiana  to promote the state's poets and the writing and reading of poems. She is experienced in teaching in universities and colleges, grade schools, retirement and nursing homes, and a range of other community and institutional settings. (One of her workshops is titled "Poetry as Memoir: Defining Moments in a Life"; another is "Women Veterans' Memoirs: A Writing Workshop".) Noting Indiana's upcoming bicentennial and the centennial of Indiana's state parks, Wagner intends also to emphasize poetry's relationship to history and nature. Her own poetry demonstrates those connections beautifully.

* * * * *
. . . you search for subject matter, focus, and point
of view. An attitude of exploration is essential and so is
an openness to what arrives as a gift—an unexpected slant
of light or simile. You try to avoid the cliche and sentimental,
while looking for imagery that elicits emotion. . . the choice
of what you don't include is as important as what you do.
~ Shari Wagner on Relationship of Writing to Photography*


A poet, memoirist, and essayist, as well as a photographer, Indiana native Shari Wagner is the author of The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana (Bottom Dog Press, 2013) and her debut collection Evening Chore (Cascadia Publishing House, 2005). A third collection, in the voice of a farm wife, is in progress. According to her Website, Wagner also is at work on poems in the voices of men and women in Indiana history.

With her father, Dr. Gerald L. Miller, Wagner co-wrote Making the Rounds: Memoirs of a Small-Town Doctor (Booklocker, June 2015) and A Hundred Camels: A Mission Doctor's Murder Trial and Sojourn in Somalia (DreamSeeker Books, 2009). She also is the editor of Returning: Stories from the Indianapolis Senior Center (Writers' Center of Indiana, 2012).

Wagner's poems, which author and reviewer Maura Stanton says "dazzle with their imagery and music", take as their subjects place (Indiana itself figures prominently), personal history, family and community, worklife, nature, memory, past and present, ancestry and heritage (Mennonite), culture, and myth and legend.

Below are excerpts from several poems that demonstrate how Wagner draws deep inspiration from the natural world to create strong, beautifully realized images:

[. . .] I find
the slender ironwood with muscles tense
as adolescence when their nerves were fused to mine.
The pallid beech with eyes of a sphinx 
still gazes further [. . . .]
~ from "The Woods"

[. . .] prayers like flakes
of snow have been falling. [. . .]
~ from "The Prayers of Saint Meinrad"

[. . .]The encyclopedia said our bird
was omnivorous like marabou
storks, those stately old
gentlemen who stood statuesque
in the garden but in a lunatic rush
devoured left-over scraps. [. . .]
~ from "Rook"

He practiced the alphabet on your broken clods,
scraped with stick or toe until what sprouted
bore the snap-bean wit of Aesop,
unfurled like Arabian tales. [. . .]
~ from "Lincoln's Field"

Poems by Wagner have been published in such literary periodicals as American Life in Poetry,  Black Warrior ReviewThe Christian Century, Indiana Review, The Mennonite Weekly ReviewMidland ReviewNational Wetlands NewsletterNorth American Review, Poetry EastShenandoah, Southern Poetry ReviewTraces of Indiana and Midwestern HistoryValparaiso Poetry Review, and The Writer's Almanac. Wagner's work also is found in the anthologies A Cappella: Mennonite Vocies in Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2013), Naturally Yours: Poems About Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs (2013), Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013 (Mariner Books), and And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana (Indiana Historical Society, 2011).

Among Wagner's honors are two Indianapolis Arts Council Creative Renewal Fellowships, more than a half-dozen Indiana Arts Commission Project Grants, the Carter Prize for the Essay (from Shenandoah, 2009; for "Camels, Cowries & A Poem for Aisha"), and three Pushcart Prize nominations. Wagner's Poem "Lincoln Field" won the Brick Street Poetry Prize and was featured in the Winter 2011 issue of Tipton Poetry Journal. (The journal is published by Brick Street Poetry; see link below.) 

Wagner teaches poetry and memoir writing at Indiana Writers Center and literature at Butler University's "Religion, Spirituality, and the Arts" seminar.

Resources

Photo Credit: Tamara Dubin Brown

All Poetry Quotes © Shari Wagner

* Quoted from Shari Wagner's Interview with George Kalamaras (See link below.)

"Goshen College Graduate Shari Wagner Named Indiana Poet Laureate", Daily News, The Mennonite, November 23, 2015

"Arts Commission Announces Shari Wagner as New Indiana State Poet Laureate", Indiana Arts Commission, News Release, November 18, 2015 (pdf)

"Goshen College Graduate Shari Wagner Named Indiana Poet Laureate", News Release, Goshen College, November 19, 2015

Shari Wagner Profiles Online: Indiana Writers' Center, The Wabash Watershed (George Kalamaras Site), The Poetry Foundation

Shari Wagner Poems Online: "First Flight" at Valparaiso Poetry Review; "The farm wife hoists the family flag", "The farm wife muses upon her Miracle Tree", "The farm wife repeats a lullaby", "The farm wife examines her Mennonite roots", "The farm wife eats out at Marner's Six Mile Cafe", "The farm wife finds her necklace in the junk drawer", "Creek-song", "Olin Lake", "Daredevil", "Creek-side prayer", and "Catbirds", All at The Christian Century; "These Rocks" at Shenandoah; "The Woods", "Year of the Rabbit", "From the Tree of Knowledge", "The farm wife speaks of her lucky buckeye", "At the Juvenile Correctional Facility", and "The Skunk Lady", All at The Wabash Watershed; "The farm wife sells her cows" at The Writer's Almanac (Audio Available); "Levi and Catherine Coffin House" from The Harmonist at Nightfall at No more corn (Blog);  "Creek-Song" at American Life in Poetry; "Inside Stone", "Amish Hymn", and "Last Pilgrimage", All at Today's Book of Poetry (Michael Dennis Blog); "The Prayers of Saint Meinrad" and "Indian Lake", Both at Perspectives Journal; "Lincoln's Field" at Indiana Humanities; "Creek-Song" at The Poetry Foundation; "The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife" at DreamSeeker Magazine; "To the Fireflies in a Drought Year" at Tipton Poetry Journal on Issuu; "Simon Pokagon and the Farmer" in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013 on GoogleBooks

Shari Wagner on FaceBook


Photographs by Shari Wagner at The Wabash Watershed (February 8, 2014)






Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Tipton Poetry Journal

1 comment:

Sunita Gandhi said...

Your blog post is really too informative. Thanks for it.
Global Curriculum