Iowa Poet Laureate Debra Marquart was interviewed by the Academy of American Poets about her 2021-2022 Poets Laureate Fellowship. Click here to read full interview.
Poets.org: Has being a poet laureate changed your relationship to your own writing in any way?
DM: Above I mentioned the “everyday” versus the “ritual” uses of poetry. As laureate, I’ve been more aware of my honorific role as a representative of poetry—as someone who highlights and upholds the importance of poetry and creative expression in general for all those who might be called to engage with the art and craft of writing. That might mean that my own personal agendas as an individual artist have to be backgrounded at times in order to speak more generally in my encouraging role as poet laureate.
Having said that, I do believe that there is a time and place to bring one’s unique experience and perspective to the table, to offer insights and views that can inform the public discourse. So I’m not suggesting that poets laureate have to censor themselves, but that sometimes there’s greater value in holding one’s tongue and choosing carefully the moment and manner in which one speaks one’s truth. Our perspectives are important, and we need to add our authentic voices to the larger chorus of voices. Our current U.S. poet laureate, Joy Harjo, has been a model in this practice in my opinion, and I’ve learned much from watching her example.