Michigan doesn’t have an official, state-supported poet laureate.
Andrea Scarpino was recently named the poet laureate of the U.P. for 2015-2017. She succeeds Russell Thorburn, the first laureate who served 2013-2015.
The public had a chance to vote Scarpino in as poet laureate at the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters website.
Scarpino is the author of Once,Then, a collection of poems published in March 2014 by Red Hen Press and The Grove Behind, published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. She teaches in Union Institute and University’s Cohort Ph.D. Program in Interdisciplinary Studies where she is the Creative Dissertation Coordinator, Coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing, and Director of the Master of Arts Program.
The Great Lakes Review had a chance to ask Scarpino a few questions recently:
1. What is your background? Where did you grow up, schooling, etc.?
I’ve lived all over the US, mostly in the Midwest, and one year in France. But I’ve lived in the UP for almost five years.
2. How/when did you first start reading/writing poetry?
I don’t really know when I first started reading and writing poetry, but I have poems that I dictated to my mother before I could write—she typed them on her typewriter—and I remember being in love with Shel Silverstein from a very early age. In high school, I discovered Emily Dickinson and my love affair was official.
3. How does the Upper Peninsula influence your work?
When I moved to Los Angeles, my poetry started containing all of these references to fire and heat and desert—and of course, to the Pacific Ocean. Since I’ve moved to Marquette, I’ve started writing a lot about ice and snow and winter and deer and red pine trees—and of course, about Lake Superior! I’ve always loved the water and have spent most of my life living near big bodies of water, so Lake Superior is probably the most important influence.
4. How did it feel to be named the U.P. Laureate?
I’m delighted to be named UP Poet Laureate! I’ve only lived here for 5 years, so I’m delighted to have been so embraced by the writing community here.
5. What are your plans as laureate?
I have so many ideas! Too many, probably. I’m actually starting a crowdfunding campaign next week to help raise some money to fund some of my ideas. One of the things I’m most excited about is building a Free Little Poetry Library that could move to different locations in the UP. It’s going to launch outside the DeVos Art Museum in Marquette the week of June 20, which is our Art Week, but I’m hoping I can move it to other communities around the UP as the summer continues. Basically, it will be a mini-library filled with poetry that people can borrow from as they please—and hopefully contribute to! My desire is to get poetry out into the community as part of daily life, not as something that only special people can do or understand in special places, but as something that we all can celebrate and read and write. Poetry is a part of my daily life, and I want to help it become more of a daily presence in the UP. Also as part of Art Week, I’m collaborating on an event with the Children’s Museum, and with the Marquette Food Co-op (were going to be doing food odes!) so that week will be really fun. I have a few other readings scheduled throughout the summer as well, including one at Bayliss Public Library (in the Sault) at 7 p.m. on June 11 with several other UP writers. I’m very excited for my tenure to begin!