Poet laureate hopes to share the power and beauty of words

A woman stands in a library with rows of books behind her.

Margaret “Peggy” Rozga often finds that poetry and life are much like the common question “how do you like your eggs?”

“I always order poached eggs,” Rozga said.

“And it seems to me that everyone else orders scrambled. But that’s too much like life. When a person finds a poem that they identify with, that resonates with them, it unscrambles this mishmash, this interwoven whatever. Suddenly something emerges and it is clear and makes sense of this whole picture, sort of like a poached egg does. You know, there it is. Perfectly round, not burnt, not rubbery. Intact. The parts are clear.”

To Rozga, recently named Wisconsin’s poet laureate for 2019-20, poetry is language at its most resourceful.

“It values emotion as precisely as possible. It is the physical sounds of words. It is the music of words,” said Rozga, emeritus professor of English at UW-Milwaukee at Waukesha.

Engaging with people

As poet laureate, Rozga wants to engage with people and enjoy the beauty of life and poetry and their coexistence together as she travels the state in her duties.

Rozga plans to reach out to the community, especially its youth, through social media.

“I don’t want to my posts to sit there for observation. I want to engage people with a dialogue, said Rozga. “I want to start a conversation.”

She hopes that ideas gleaned from poems such as Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) or artists such as Joan Miró will encourage creativity. Rozga plans to share these ideas on her social media accounts as daily prompts called Sunday’s Sentence, Monday’s Muse, What’s up Wednesday and Friday Favorites.

“I want to work poetry more into our daily conversations,” said Rozga.

Teacher spurred love of poetry

Poetry has always been a huge part of her life, Rozga said. She credits an English teacher who helped form this love at an early age, tasking her and her classmates with memorizing many poems.

“It’s absolutely one of my favorites,” said Rozga, fondly recalling an Emily Dickinson poem, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name –  the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

That poem, Rozga said, helped her not only as a young woman but also now also as she begins her new responsibilities as poet laureate.

“To me, a person who was struggling with their identity (as a teenager), the poem is actually a person at peace with their identity or rationalizing the feeling of being lost in the crowd. Then she turns that around — you don’t want to stand out,” said Rozga. “There’s something artificially imposing about that.”

A new understanding

Now as an adult and Wisconsin’s poet laureate, Rozga understands the poem differently.

“There’s a shift and that goes on from being with your family and friends to being a public speaker, a public persona that sometimes is a little uncomfortable,” Rozga said.

As Rozga travels the state in her new position, she will focus on community and helping people discover or nurture their own love of poetry with several workshops or events.

“I want to work poetry more into our daily conversations,” said Rozga. “I hope to do that with Facebook and Twitter and workshops as I travel.”

You may follow her at the Wisconsin poet laureate pageon Facebook and on Twitter.

Each link will lead you to her conversations or events throughout the state.

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