Over the past few months, the search was on to locate the inaugural Lansing Poet Laureate. Today, Weds. April 19th, that individual was announced. Hear the Lansing Poet Laureate describe their craft and read a new poem.
The Lansing Poet Laureate is a project helmed by three groups, the Lansing Poetry Club, the Center for Poetry at MSU’s Residential College of Arts and Humanities (RCAH), and LEAP, the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, who will fund this two year position at $2,000 per year. Which doesn’t sound like much, but as Dennis Hinrichsen, a professor at Lansing Community College, who was announced today as the recipient of the Laureateship says, "Poetry is the most affordable, and accessible. All I need is a ream of paper and a box of No.2 pencils and a shark's jaw, and a gang of second graders and I can unlock new worlds."
You read that correctly - "a shark's jaw."
"Yeah," says Hinrichsen. "you take something tactile and them to touch and look at, it's visual. They have something to write about. They can make figurative language out of that and figurative language is that first leap into poetic vision. That opens up a world and then they have permission to say wonderful, crazy inventive, and majestic kinds of things."
To Hinrichsen, he calls the creation of a new work 'Courting a poem.'
"Oh yeah! I think that came from one of my teachers: John Woods. I think it had to do with the idea that if you're stalled, the idea of courting a poem would be to actually go out, walk around and with the idea in your head and see if that walking around is an inducement to the imagination."
WKAR asked Dennis Hinrichsen, as new Lansing Poet Laureate to read a poem and he brought a new one, as inspired by his uncle. Later in life, Dennis Hinrichsen’s uncle wrote kind of a rambling letter, "his death letter" as Hinrichsen describes it, in which he apologizes to Hinrichsen’s mother for how his life went.
"and then" explains Hinrichsen "he drops into this really beautiful memory of working on the farm my father's parent's farm when he was 16, and he remembered a horse there. The horse's name is Thunder Annie, and that becomes the title of the poem."
New Lansing Poet Laureate Dennis Hinrichsen officially begins his 2-year term as Lansing Poet Laureate on May 1st, 2017.