In ECA Event, Literary Committee, News

Easthampton City Arts is thrilled to announce the term extension of Easthampton Poet Laureate María José Giménez.

Upon entering the third year of our Poet Laureate program, Easthampton City Arts (ECA) and its Literary Subcommittee engaged in ongoing, thoughtful discussion for how to continue to develop our still-new-and-evolving program. The group felt strongly that a two-year term better allows for and supports the potential of an individual poet laureate’s influence, impact, and integration with the community they serve – and simultaneously serve to nurture a community’s capacity to receive and connect with its poet laureate. A two-year term is also the length of the majority of port laureate programs around the world. Through these Literary Committee discussions, it quickly became clear that rather than make these programmatic changes with an incoming poet laureate, the Literary Subcommittee unanimously and enthusiastically chose to institute these changes now, with an extension of Easthampton Poet Laureate María José Giménez’s term.

Over the past year, María José has served the City of Easthampton as Poet Laureate through an inauguration presentation at Luthier’s Coop as part of Unbuttoned Presents and through the meaningful inception, creation, and presentation of a community poem called A Canopy of Neighbors at the Easthampton Futures Project’s culminating event, in collaboration with local poets Zoe Tuck and Alex Woolner. This poem, along with a letter from Poet Laureate María José Giménez, can be found below. In addition, María José is working on a number of upcoming projects that will continue to serve the public of Easthampton and beyond, including UNA PEÑA, a quarterly series of words, art, and sound by people of color, which was set to launch on Easthampton Poetry Day 2020 at Book Moon Books.

On behalf of all of us at Easthampton City Arts, we offer our ongoing gratitude, appreciation, and celebration of all of the poets throughout our immediate and extended communities. We also recognize just how valuable and meaningful poetry is and can be, as we navigate this unprecedented and extraordinary time.

*Cover photo by Julian Parker-Burns

Poesía en todas partes — Poetry everywhere
Dear Easthampton,

I have loved you from Day 1. It is a delight to be part of your community, to learn from you as I witness you change, to watch community members support one another, celebrate and grieve together, get out of our comfort zone to make the City more inclusive and equitable, and unite efforts at this time of unfathomable crisis and opportunity—all with arts and culture as one of the pillars of your mandate. That’s why I decided to call you home.

You, my beloved little city with a big heart, made this queer born-and-raised Venezuelan feel at home, gave me family, opened my favorite bakery for my birthday the year I moved here, celebrate my weird individual and collaborative projects, and are home to many excellent restaurants walking distance from my tiny home, including what is decidedly the best restaurant in the region. And you named me your second poet laureate. You believe poetry matters.

Poetry is everywhere—it’s in our breath and blood. We’ve been singing our stories since we first sat by a fire to eat, rest, and stay safe together. To say we are living turbulent times is a gross understatement. We need space to rest, recover, and connect—to sense into our deepest intentions, build empathy, and satisfy our hunger for community and belonging. We each find that in different places. I find it in writing.

In poetry, I’ve found a non-transactional space to explore, honor, embody, and express the small, daily moments that make up human experience. My creative practice as poet-translator and facilitator-in-training teaches me that poetry gives us space for exploration, reflection, discovery, generative cocreation, connection, and individual and collective expression of what is true and important. That is my offering to you.

Easthampton, being your poet laureate has been humbling, and I don’t take this recognition lightly. Your spirit and support empower me to at least attempt to make poetry visible, accessible, and ubiquitous through my words, the connections I weave through my work, and the collaborations that drive my creative practice. My dream of living in a radically inclusive place where everyone engages poetry daily and intimately doesn’t feel completely farfetched here.

Thank you for your gifts, presence, creativity, and kindness. It is an honor to serve you.

Come play with me!

María José Giménez
@ma_xota on social media and Patreon