Michigan State University Associate Professor Laura Apol has been named Lansing-area Poet Laureate. She is only the second individual to ever hold the honor.
In the role, Apol will work to promote poetry as an art form, expand access to literary arts and connect the community to poetry.
“It’s an honor to be selected as the incoming poet laureate,” said Apol in a recent press release. The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), the MSU Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) Center for Poetry and the Lansing Poetry Club announced the honor in April, and Apol will be officially begin her two-year appointment on May 3.
“I’m looking forward to working with area poets to bring poetry into areas where perhaps it is something new,” she continued in the press release. “I’d love for poetry to be part of the everyday life of the community, so that poems are encountered in unexpected places, and so people who don’t consider themselves to be poets find themselves enjoying poems and perhaps even writing some lines.”
In her work to create excitement for and stimulate the transformative impact of poetry, Apol will offer workshops, readings and other opportunities to help create excitement for and stimulate the transformative impact of poetry in the tri-county region, which includes Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties.
Apol, a faculty member in the Department of Teacher Education, is renowned for her award-winning poetry collections, including:
- “Falling into Grace” (Dordt College Press, 1998);
- “Crossing the Ladder of Sun” (Michigan State University Press, 2003);
- “Requiem, Rwanda” (MSU Press, 2015), drawn from her work using writing to facilitate healing among survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi; and
- “Nothing but the Blood” (MSU Press, 2018). The collection won the Oklahoma Book Award, Poetry (April 2019), and tied for the silver medal for the Independent Publishers Book Award for Poetry (May 2019). It was also a finalist in Poetry for the Midwest Book Awards (May 2019).
Her research is also deeply embedded in poetry, literature and its ability to transform and heal individuals. As her work in Rwanda has continued, so has her scholarship; she is currently at work on a Humanities and Arts Research Program-funded book project entitled “Whose Poem is it, Anyway? The Challenge and Responsibility of Researcher as Scholar and Witness” (Springer, forthcoming).
“We need poems. They teach us—about ourselves, about each other, about the world and about our place in the world,” Apol said. “I have been fortunate throughout my time at MSU to have administrators who recognized that poetry—both reading and writing—was an important part of scholarship and teaching in a teacher education program. I have also had poet-colleagues in TE (Professor Emeritus Jay Featherstone and Associate Professor Janine Certo), along with very talented graduate students, who bring their skill and passion for poetry into our program. Together, it’s an opportunity to provide teachers, teachers-to-be and the students they’ll work with across their careers with experiences with poetry that may give them a forum for expression and for action in the world.”
Information about the Lansing Poet Laureate, the initial press release and future events can be found on the LPL website.
Throughout the month of April, Michigan State University was part of U.S. efforts to help commemorate events of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi. Apol was involved in several events to provide a place for remembering and healing. Read about them here.