Rozga named state poet laureate
Milwaukee’s Margaret (Peggy) Rozga is Wisconsin’s new poet laureate, the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission announced Monday.
Rozga will serve as state ambassador and encourager of poetry through 2020. She succeeds Appleton’s Karla Huston, who just completed her twoyear term.
In addition to giving readings and meeting people around the state, Rozga revealed three initiatives in a statement released by the commission:
❚ Encouraging people, including public officials and business and community leaders, to name and claim a favorite poet or poem.
❚ Encouraging existing book clubs to focus at least one meeting a year on poetry.
❚ Building a Wisconsin poetry presence on Twitter and other social media.
Rozga is a well-known local writer, educator and social justice advocate. Her books include “Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems” (2017), a biography in narrative poems of activist and writer Jessie Benton Frémont. She also edited the anthology “Where I Want to Live: Poems for Fair and Affordable Housing” (2018), an offshoot of the 50th anniversary commemoration of Milwaukee’s fair housing marches. (As a young activist, Rozga took part in the 1967-68 marches.)
“Both activism and creative writing involve seeing, being aware beyond the obvious,” Rozga said in a 2013 interview published in Wisconsin People & Ideas. “Both involve dogged determination to get something right.”
She is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Waukesha and a program committee member of the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books.
The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters took over stewardship of the poet laureate position in 2011 after the state cut its support for the program, citing budget reasons. The laureate receives a $2,500 annual stipend and accepts the responsibility of arranging or attending literary events each year. Rozga also will receive a weeklong residency at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in Mineral Point.
During her recently concluded laureateship, Huston traveled more than 11,000 miles, holding 66 readings, 17 memory cafes and five workshops.
Past Wisconsin poets laureate include Kimberly Blaeser, Max Garland, Bruce Dethlefsen, Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Sweet and Ellen Kort.
Margaret (Peggy) Rozga of Milwaukee will be Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2019-20.