Many wonderful elements of a sprouting season make April one of the most enchanting times of the year, but none more so than the celebration of blooming voices and language that is National Poetry Month.
One local aspect of the celebration is the annual selection of the Montgomery County poet laureate, and this year’s winner is poet and translator Liz Chang.
“My head is still swimming a bit, but I always go back to themes of identity and visual art,” Chang said when asked about her ideas for advancing poetry during her appointment. “I am hoping to put something together soon that plays upon and expands these themes. Since I have connections at the local community colleges, I’d love to get more involved with that age group.” Since 2009, Chang has taught poetry as part of literary analysis at Delaware County Community College, and she has recently “been afforded the opportunity to get involved in sponsoring a reading and poetry competition at the Downingtown campus, as well as joining the committee for developing a new AFA degree program at the college.”
Teaching is an opportunity she appreciates immensely.
“I consider it a privilege to be able to share what I love so much with my students, and, in doing so, they deepen my understanding and appreciation as well,” she said.
Chang’s own interest in poetry began with her participation in a workshop with Hettie Jones during her undergraduate studies at Parsons School of Design. She continued to pursue writing with an MFA from Vermont College and published “Provenance” (Book&Arts Press) in 2007. Her second book of poetry “What Ordinary Objects” is forthcoming from Book&Arts.
The collection is a poignant exploration that transcends physical tangibles with emotional, mental and even cultural awareness. Interspersed with Chang’s poetry are her haunting translations of French poet Claude de Burine.
“I often translate in stages,” Chang said. “I think of climbing inside a poet’s work — it’s an act of homage, really — and trying to let out whatever he or she is trying to say.
“The first time through, I will do a rough translation of the lines I’m relatively sure of, and then go back through with several dictionaries and attempt to decode words and images that are not yet falling into place.
“In the final stage, I am looking to evoke the voice of the poet. If there are problems with my translation that I can solve with a choice that may not be entirely literal, but that seems more in line with the voice of the poet, I will pick the voice over the word.”
Writing is a process, and having a group of writers to work with can encourage and challenge writers to refine their work, and with the Poetry Wordshop group, founded by 2010 Montgomery County Poet Laureate Grant Clauser, Chang found a group of writers who helped her “immeasurably.”
“What’s so lovely about our little band is that everyone has a different perspective,” she said, “and no matter what stage a piece may be in, there’s someone who seems to ‘get’ what it is trying to say. And although we often disagree about how to approach a work’s revision, I am never short on ideas for where to begin.”
In addition to recognizing Chang’s appointment as poet laureate, the PoetryWITS (Writers in the Schools) Program, founded and directed by 2008 Montgomery County Poet Laureate Elizabeth Rivers, named the following youth poetry contest winners, whose work can be read at www.a2pwebdesign.com.
Grades 1-3. Winner: Ezra Imaizumi, Merion Elementary. Runner-up: Molly Cleary, Rydal Elementary.
Grades 4-6. Winner: Antoinette McFarland, Wissahickon Middle School. Runner-up: Hana Kenworthy, Fort Washington Elementary.
Grades 7-9. Winner: Sammy Ritz, Germantown Academy. Runner-up: Tony Zhang, the Hill School.
Grades 10-12. Winner: Mini Racker, Abington Friends School. Runner-up: Emily Clark, the Baldwin School.
Also recognized was Aimee Seu, Cheltenham High School, who won the Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson Award in Poetry, an annual award of $250 given to a high school student from Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, or Philadelphia county who has submitted the best poem in any form.
To learn more and support the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program, visitwww.a2pwebdesign.com.
— Nicolette Milholin is a literary columnist dedicated to interviewing authors, reviewing books and promoting events. Visit bookboundcolumn.blogspot.com for links to her published columns and a list of recommended literary events.
If You Go:
and PoetryWITS winners
at Musehouse: A Center
for the Literary Arts,
7924 Germantown Ave.,
Chestnut Hill, PA 19118,
Saturday, April 21, 7 p.m.
Info: 267-331-9552 or