October 3, 2002

Tompkins County Inaugerates Poet Machan

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Tompkins County inaugurated its first Poet Laureate, Katharyn Howd Machan, on Tuesday at a ceremony in the Borg Warner Room of the Tompkins County Public Library.

“It was really lovely,” Machan, an assistant professor of the writing program at Ithaca College, said of the ceremony.

The event, which lasted approximately half an hour, held 35 people in attendance from across Tompkins County.

Retiring Board of Representatives member Stuart Stein originally suggested the creation of an official post of Poet Laureate. In Dec. 2001 a three-member panel was organized by the Community Arts Partnership. This panel later selected Machan for the post from among many other candidates for a two-year term.

“I’m delighted historically, beyond my own ego, that [the post was filled by] a woman, so it has a special meaning for me,” Machan said.

Machan hopes the creation of the new post will help to widen the appreciation of poetry throughout the county. As the first to hold the post, Machan will be doing much to shape the role the post will play in the future.

“The appointment of a County Poet Laureate will give recognition to the importance of writers and writing in this county,” Stein said, according to the press release.

As one of her first acts as Poet Laureate, Machan will begin a series of monthly workshops, the Laureate Series, beginning on Oct. 24.

She also plans to organize poetry readings around the county but in places such as ice cream shops where readings are not normally held. Mundo Gitano on the Commons has already asked her to lead a reading of world poetry.

As for her own inspiration, “poetry has been central to me since high school. [It is] a way to better understand why we’re in this world, why we should go on living,” Machan said.

Machan is also involved with the organization of Womenspeak, an annual event at Ithaca College that grew out of the women’s studies department. The conference, of which Machan will be co-director, includes academic talks, dances, slide shows, videos, music and acting and will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on March 31.

Machan’s other current projects include creating text scapes at the Tompkins County Public Library. Working with visual artist Jeff DiCastro, Machan will line the walls of the library with poetry in letters six inches high.

“A mentor just said to me, ‘You can do this,'” Machan said of her motivation to write poetry. Through her position as Poet Laureate, she hopes to inspire others to appreciate poetry as she was inspired to.

Archived article by Elizabeth Donald