In partnership with the Westwood Public Library's 21st Century Fund and the Westwood Cultural Council, the Town of Westwood is pleased to announce the selection of Westwood's first Poet Laureate.
Meet Westwood's inaugural Poet Laureate:
The Town of Westwood’s Select Board, acting on the recommendation of the Westwood Poet Laureate Selection Committee, has appointed Lynne Viti as the town’s inaugural Poet Laureate. She is a teacher, poet, fiction writer and community advocate for poetry. During her term, which runs through June 2025, Viti will present poetry workshops in the Westwood schools, run poetry workshops for adults in the library and senior center, and write poems to commemorate the town and civic holidays.
Additionally, she will partner with the library and the schools in a town-wide poetry contest, a slam poetry event, and a poetry course at the Westwood Senior Center. She will also select and mentor the first and second Youth Poets Laureate, a position also established by the Select Board.
Both the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate positions are sponsored by a gift from the Westwood Public Library's 21st Century Fund. The Westwood Cultural Council has also granted funding for programs and inititatives facilitated by the Poet Laureate.
Photo Credit Richard Howard
In making its recommendation to the Select Board, the Poet Laureate Search Committee, led by co-chairs Kieran Moriarty, a Westwood High teacher and Maria Ryan, library trustee, cited Viti’s “notable history and ongoing effort to promote poetry in the town of Westwood, her concrete plans for events in the town during her term as Poet Laureate, and the excellence of her poetry."
Viti is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, The Walk to Cefalù, from Cornerstone Press. She has published widely in online and print journals and newspapers, and has won prizes in local, national and international competitions, including the WMOR/Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, The Fish Publishing Poetry Contest, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest, and the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. A lecturer emerita in the Writing Program at Wellesley College, she and her family have lived in Westwood since 1991.
“I am excited to serve as Westwood’s inaugural poet laureate,” said Lynne. “I am passionate about poetry, and look forward to the honor of bringing poetry into every corner of our town, from the very young to the eldest residents. At this time more than ever, we need poetry as a way to celebrate, to mourn, to express our innermost feelings, and to make sense of the world around us.”
All events listed here are free and open to the public.
September 14, 2023, 7 PM, Rozzie Reads, Roslindale House, 120 Poplar Street, Roslindale, MA
Saturday, September 23, 2023, Westwood Day
High School Parking Lot
September 14,2023 featured reader, Pour Me A Poem, Mansfield, MA, 51 Park Street, Mansfield, MA (there will be a pass the hat for the featured reader, completely voluntary)
Monday, October 16, 10 AM, Poetry Workshop for Seniors
Westwood Council on Aging, 60 Nahatan St, Westwood
*If your library, church, community center, high school college alumnae/i group, or book club would like to book a poetry reading and book signing event, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information. I’d be delighted to come and read and do a Q &A for you!
Battle of Student Wordsmiths at Westwood High Poetry Slam
Seven Westwood High School poets engaged in verbal combat in the Little Theater on April 27 at the Teen Poetry Slam, before a packed house of students, faculty, and staff. The three winners of this year’s slam were Corvus Brooks (grade 9), first prize; Sophie Ritz (grade 12), second prize, and Katie Tran (Grade 11), third prize.
Poets Ryan Kaplan, Elizabeth Lowney, Izzy Feinfeld and Georgia Perry also participated in the slam.
Darlande “Dee” Joseney, WHS academic specialist/coach and a veteran spoken word poet, emceed. She explained at the outset exactly how a poetry slam works, warming up the audience and encouraging them to support the spoken word poets, and calling up each poet to the mic in turn.
Serving as judges were Katherine Stewart, Samantha Ronan and Wilbur Edwards. For two rounds of poetic combat, judges scored each student’s use of poetic language, delivery, and tone. The poems drew on each writer’s life experience, with autobiographical themes of family, identity, aspirations and self-acceptance.
More About the Judges
Samantha Ronan, WHS Class of 2006, is a lover of literature and poetry whose proudest moment in college at Villanova was meeting Irish poet Seamus Heaney.
Katherine Stewart is the Humanities Department Chair at Thurston Middle School. A lifelong reader and writer, she is passionate about helping young people discover their voices through writing.
Wilbur Edwards Jr. is a retired Massachusetts Housing Court judge. He notes that in his years on the bench, he was exposed to numerous attorneys and litigants in the courtroom who were excellent in verbal dueling.
WHS librarian Theresa Fisher and English and Creative Writing teacher Kieran Moriarty planned details of the event, from a pre-slam lunch for the judges and poets, to the securing of the Little Theater and evaluation of scores between rounds. The slam was supported in part by a grant to Westwood Poet Laureate Lynne Viti, from the Westwood Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and a grant from the WHS PTO.
What is a Poet Laureate?
Why would Westwood need a Poet Laureate? What does that entail and why do we need poetry in the municipal sphere? What practical purpose can a Poet Laureate serve? All good questions!
Many other municipalities in Massachusetts have already established Poet Laureates and have explained it thus:
Just as a town has common property — the town library, the town hall, the town parks — there is a common human landscape inhabited by all whose lives are rooted in a place. It’s a landscape of history, attitudes and common experiences. Without someone striving to weave the community into words, a town’s identity remains the unexamined sum of fleeting moments. Whether or not one agrees with the Poet Laureate’s words, they can help to crystallize the town’s view of itself. The Poet Laureate holds up a mirror so the town can see itself. https://westtisburylibrary.org/
And as Ellie O’Leary, Poet Laureate of Amesbury, MA states “In the civic sphere, poetry can offer succinctness that is not available in other writing. Even people who say they don’t 'get' poetry will sometimes find themselves reading or quoting it in stressful times.”
Having a town sponsored Poet can be a gift to the community and create a lasting archive of a living history of Westwood seen through poetry. The Poet Laureate for Westwood typically writes poems about the town, the time, and the spirit of Westwood. We have a history of Westwood through photos, newspapers, letters, and so much more; establishing a Poet Laureate to write poems for Westwood would create a unique time capsule of Westwood seen through poems.
The Poet Laureate might mark Westwood’s upcoming quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) with a poem that captures the life, essence, and identity of this community in the year 2023.
Poets have commemorated the history of the nation, the state, the city, for decades. For example,
Robert Frost, “The Gift Outright,” inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, 1961.
Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning," first inauguration of President Bill Clinton,1993
Miller Williams, “Of History and Hope” at the second inauguration of President Bill Clinton, 1997
Richard Blanco, “One Today,” second inauguration of President Barack Obama, 2013
Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb,” inauguration of President Joe Biden, 2021
When we lack words for how we are feeling, what we have accomplished, what we are proud of, or where we want to go, poets can create something that unites us as a community.
She is a lecturer emerita in the Writing Program at Wellesley College, where she taught in the Writing Program for three decades. Previously, she taught high school English and creative writing in Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts, and in the College of General Studies at Boston University.
Viti is the author of two full-length poetry collections, The Walk to Cefalù (Cornerstone Press 2022), Dancing at Lake Montebello (Apprentice House, 2020), two poetry chapbooks, Baltimore Girls (2017) and The Glamorganshire Bible (2018) all from Finishing Line Press and a short story collection, Going Too Fast (2020).
Have a question? Want to learn more about poetry? Lynne will have office hours at the Main Library by appointment. She can be reached by email email@example.com.