“In poetry I feel more emboldened to be myself, which of course is very scary, on the one hand, to open up and be vulnerable with other people. But on the other hand, I think that’s so powerful, to connect with others, and to bring about change, and to grow.”
Those are the words of Kathy Smaltz, a Nokesville resident, and the newly selected Poet Laureate for Prince William County. The role of Poet Laureate is to act as the face of poetry in Prince William, and to encourage others in the community to write poems of their own.
She is replacing the previous co-Poet Laureates, Dr. Robert Scott and Alexandra “Zan” Hailey, who served from 2014 to 2016. Serving a two year term, Smaltz will bring poetry and writing to the community, and encourage individuals to take part.
Smaltz is a mother of four, and has been working as an English teacher in Prince William since 1995.
“I’ve been writing for a very long time – since I was a kid. I love writing, love reading, love words. I write a little bit of everything, but poetry is something that I’ve written since I was about seven years old. I like to write short stories, and fiction – I’ve got a manuscript that I’ve finished about a year ago, that I’m shopping around…so I don’t write poetry exclusively, but like many writers, I go through periods of time when I primarily write one genre over another,” said Smaltz.
For Smaltz, writing poetry also makes sense with her busy schedule.
“I’ll quote [poet] Lucille Clifton – when she was asked, ‘How do you raise kids, and find time to write too?’ and she said she just writes shorter poems…writing poetry is more manageable when you’re working full time,” said Smaltz.
Smaltz was selected as the Poet Laureate after a panel of judges read through a body of her work, and a project proposal she submitted, about how she would spend her time as Poet Laureate.
“I came up with the idea to do a poetry workshop, which in and of itself is not a novel idea…but the idea of empowering people through a poetry project…you’re tapping into the entire community of poets in Prince William County – we have so many good poets, we have so many good people who love to write, and have a passion for writing,” said Smaltz.
She’s hoping to work with trainers, counselors, and other educators that work with students and adults, to help them encourage others to pursue poetry writing.
“One of the things I love about poetry, of course, is just the distilled image, and the lyric nature of it – that you can capture a feeling better in poetry, I think, than a lot of other forms,” Smaltz said.
She considers her favorite poets to be Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, and Robert Frost.
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