Town brief: First-ever poet laureate of Taos

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The United States has one. Albuquerque too. Now Taos can add “poet laureate” to its list of enchanting things that makes this area so rich in culture and art.

Sawnie Morris has been selected as the inaugural poet laureate of Taos. Morris is a nationally recognized poet, whose full-length collection of poems, “Her, Infinite,” won the 2015 New Issues Press Poetry Award (judge: Major Jackson). She was recently profiled as one of Poets & Writers magazine’s “Five Over Fifty” (2016).

“There are so many truly excellent poets in Taos. Quite a number of whom are known or getting to be known nationally. That really made this possible. In terms of the poet laureate, thanks to the town, the Witter Bynner Foundation, the judges –– and the poets –– they made this a reasonable thing to do, ” said Morris.

A “laureate” is a person honored for outstanding creative or intellectual achievement. In Ancient Greece, that person had their head bestowed with a crown of laurel (hence the name).

In modern-day Taos, the role of the poet laureate will be more hands-on. Morris envisions a “Poetry in Waiting” project –– in which short poems or fragments are posted in the waiting rooms of public places, on public transportation, and maybe in private businesses.

SOMOS created the poet laureate initiative to raise awareness of Taos as a national center for the contemporary literary arts, in keeping with the area’s historic importance as a gathering place for prominent writers and artists.

With funding from the Witter Bynner Foundation and with approval from the Town of Taos, SOMOS recruited four judges and announced open applications in October 2017 for the inaugural Taos poet laureate position to begin a two-year term on January 1, 2018.

Morris will attend the Town of Taos Council meeting on January 23. SOMOS director Jan Smith will announce the poet laureate position. Morris will share a poem with Mayor Barrone and Town Council members, as well as the public-in-attendance.

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