NEWTOWN, Conn. — While Lisa Schwartz was recently named poet laureate of Newtown, she has been preparing for the position for many years.
“I think I’ve been working toward this job for most of my life,” Schwartz told the Daily Voice. “I’ve always been fascinated by the way poetry can be melded for an occasion.”
Schwartz, who was named poet laureate in September, will be sworn into her three-year term this month.
She said she writes short jingles and poems for special milestones in the lives of her friends and loved ones — from birthdays to bar mitzvahs.
To apply for the position of poet laureate, Schwartz had to write poems for several hypothetical town events.
In one scenario, she was asked to write a poem celebrating the inauguration of a selectman.
“I had to think about that one,” Schwartz said, adding she wanted a fitting poem for that serious occasion.
“I wanted to capture the gravitas of the person who would assume that role of leadership in Newtown,” she said.
She was also asked her to write a poem for a new arts center.
“That one I kind of had fun with,” Schwartz said.
Another scenario required her to write a poem celebrating the opening of a new senior center.
“I was able to write that one with a little bit of humor,” she said.
A humble poet, Schwartz didn’t think she would win. She doesn’t often submit her work for publication and only “with great reluctance.”
The position, she said, “was beyond my wildest dreams.”
“It was one of the high points of my life besides giving birth and getting married,” she said.
In her new position, Schwartz said she hopes to engage high school students in poetry. Many students seem to be excited about poetry in elementary school and middle school, she said, but lose interest when they enter high school.
“I’m hoping to change that or figure out why that is,” she said.
As Newtown’s first poet laureate, Schwartz has the opportunity to develop the responsibilities of the future poet laureates. While she has not mapped out her three-year term, she has plenty of time to make her mark.
“I have some time to gather my ideas and put them into action,” she said.
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