WNMU Professor Proclaimed Silver City/Grant County Poet Laureate

© Western New Mexico University

Silver City and Grant County have a new Poet Laureate in WNMU professor Heather Frankland. Frankland, who will be promoted to the rank of Associate Professor upon the start of the new academic year, teaches composition in the Humanities Department.

The Silver City/Grant County Poet Laureate program was established in 2011 as a way to promote poetry as part of the diverse cultural fabric of the town and region. Past laureates have also had ties to WNMU, including Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jack Crocker, Professor Emeritus Bonnie Buckley Maldonado and graduate student and Writing Center tutor Allison Waterman. Frankland will be the program’s sixth poet laureate.

The Poet Laureate role was created by the steering committee of what is now known as the Southwest Word Fiesta. According to their website, “This honorary role is awarded to a person who has established a presence in the world of poetry, demonstrated a commitment to the literary art form, and embraces the opportunity to engage in civil discourse.” Candidates for the role go through a rigorous application and interview process.

Frankland’s qualifications include poems published in multiple literary journals and a poetry chapbook, “Midwest Musings,” which was published last fall by Finishing Line Press. She regularly organizes community events focused on writing.

One of the duties of the Poet Laureate is to raise awareness of the power of poetry and the spoken word. In addition to raising awareness, there is also an advocacy component to the position. “The purpose of the program is to advocate and encourage poetry,” said Frankland, “Even though poetry is the oldest form of written literature, it is often the underdog.”

According to Frankland, it is rare for a small city or county to have a poet laureate program. “We are the only program in all of southern New Mexico,” she said. During her time in the role, she hopes to foster awareness of the program.

She also looks forward to working on another goal of the program, which is articulated on the Southwest Word Fiesta website: to “celebrate the spirit of the people and the special qualities of our region, especially our cultural blend running back to the Mimbres culture, now expressed in both Spanish and English.” One of the ways Frankland plans to do this is through outreach activities. In particular, she said, she is interested in “finding ways to get WNMU and Silver City and Grant County more connected,” and she hopes to build relationships “between groups that have not always worked together.”

For Frankland, the work is highly personal. As someone who has always valued poetry, she realizes that many people do not understand why poetry matters. “The reason that poetry matters,” she explained, “is that it allows us to go into the landscape of the poet in order to connect to our own landscape. Poetry, even more so that other forms of literature, sticks with us.”

Poetry is also a vehicle for processing emotion, she said. “For those emotions that are extremely difficult, like grief, a poem can make you feel connected,” said Frankland. “It is about being present. Even if a poem seems simple at first, you have to sit with it. You have to calm your mind down and be there and be present.”

“I think there are few things today that allow us that,” she added. “Everything is rush, rush, rush, but you cannot rush with a poem. You are there in the moment.”



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