María José Giménez to remain Easthampton’s poet laureate

  • María José Giménez, appointed Easthampton’s poet laureate last April, will now serve until April  2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • María José Giménez, appointed Easthampton’s poet laureate last April, will now serve until April 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Last year, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle formally declared April to be Poetry Month in the city, a reflection of the growing interest in town in the written word.

That interest has been chronicled in a number of ways: the city’s annual Book Fest, for instance; recognition of small publishers in town such as Small Beer Press; and the appointment a few years ago of Easthampton’s first poet laureate, Gary Metras.

This April, the city had hoped to offer a brand-new event — Easthampton Poetry Day — which would have featured activities such as readings, workshops and a poetry marketplace, all slated to take place within the Cottage Street Cultural District. But then COVID-19 came along.

With live events canceled, the city marked Poetry Month this year by featuring poems through its social media channels — and by making the poet laureate position a two-year term, rather than a one-year post.

Current laureate María José Giménez, who took over the position last year from Metras, will therefore remain in the post until next April. Pasqualina Azzarello, coordinator of Easthampton City Arts, notes that most poet laureate programs have two-year terms.

In addition, Azzarello said in a statement, Easthampton City Arts’ literary subcommittee believes a two-year term offers better support both for a poet laureate’s influence to be felt and for a community to build a connection with the poet.

“María José is working on a number of upcoming projects that will continue to serve the public of Easthampton and beyond, including UNA PEÑA, a quarterly series of words, art, and sound by people of color,” said Azzarello (the latter effort had been scheduled to launch April 18).

Giménez, a native of Venezuela who has long worked as a translator in Spanish, English and French, has offered an open letter to the city in which she says in part “I have loved you from Day 1. It is a delight to be part of your community, to learn from you as I witness you change, to watch community members support one another ...

“Easthampton, being your poet laureate has been humbling, and I don’t take this recognition lightly,” Giménez said.

The city’s Book Fest has been rescheduled for Nov. 6-8, with many of the planned Poetry Day activities slated to take place then.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.