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“West Virginia’s Poetic Heart” celebrates poets Maggie Anderson and Marc Harshman

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 30th, 2022

West Virginia University Libraries, the West Virginia and Regional History Center and the West Virginia University Humanities Center continue the “West Virginia’s Poetic Heart” celebration on October 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Downtown Libraries’ Milano Reading Room.

Attend in person or register to watch the Zoom event here.

At 6:30 p.m., the WVRHC will be open to showcase its latest exhibit, which documents selected West Virginia poets with materials from the Center’s book and archival collections.

The “West Virginia’s Poetic Heart” program brings together West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman and the poetry of noted Appalachian poet Maggie Anderson.

“Marc and Maggie are prominently featured in the Center’s poetry exhibition. They exemplify the poetic heart, the character, the dreams, and the experiences of West Virginians, that is evident in the works of writers and poets in the state. We are excited to host them for an evening of poetry and discussion that is sure to stir, soothe, and inspire the audience,” WVRHC Interim Director Lori Hostuttler said.

The WVU Humanities Center will also use the occasion to honor Harshman’s 10 years of service as the state’s Poet Laureate.

“Marc sets the gold standard for literary citizenship and to dedication to the State of West Virginia,” WVU Humanities Center Director Renée Nicholson said. “I delight in celebrating my colleague and fellow poet.”

Harshman left Indiana to attend Bethany College in 1969 and fell in love with the Mountain State, which reminded him of his native home.

“Both places are much defined by rural culture,” Harshman said. “People respect hard work, are welcoming and friendly. It’s the kind of place where people know the name of things – plants, next hollow over, roads, and creeks. And that all suited me.”

Harshman was appointed Poet Laureate for West Virginia in 2012. He is the author of 14 children’s books including “The Storm,” a Smithsonian Notable Book, and five books of poetry. He also holds degrees from Yale University Divinity School and the University of Pittsburgh. In 2018, WVU invited him to be part of the inaugural group of Distinguished West Virginians who contributed their papers to the WVRHC.

“I have a great faith in poetry to refocus in us what it means to be human and with every passing year I feel an ever greater need to be reminded about what it is that we hold in common as men and women who value beauty and the kind of meaning revealed in artistic expression,” Harshman said. “I am not embarrassed to continue to quote as immensely relevant William Carlos Williams’ adage that, ‘It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there’.” 

Harshman views being poet laureate as an opportunity to pursue his writing diligently and to promote the arts of West Virginia, whenever and wherever he is. In that vein, he is quick to praise his long-time friend.

“Maggie writes poems that are heartwarming, that make you proud to be a fellow human being, even as some of the poems ask you to face challenges and darker issues,” Harshman said.

Anderson is a poet and author of five books of poems, most recently “Dear All.” She was born in New York City in 1948 and moved to West Virginia when she was 13 years old. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English, with high honors, from WVU in 1970, she stayed to complete master degrees in creative writing and social work. She taught poetry at Kent State University from 1989 until her retirement in 2009.

Although she’s lived in many places throughout her life – New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon and Ohio – she calls West Virginia home.

“There are the familiar hills, there are my memories of my friends and I growing up there,” Anderson said. “I have vivid memories of Morgantown from when I was in college. I used to walk these hills and walk these streets. In some way, what we think about home is place of memories.”

She treasures her memories of her close friend Irene McKinney, Poet Laureate for West Virginia from 1994 until her death in 2012.

“I used to go to her place outside of Elkins. It was out in the country,” Anderson said. “I loved to be in the green and in the fields, and I think that all goes directly into my writing. I can’t seem to write anything without a tree in it.”

Refreshments and book signing will follow after the formal event. More information can be found here.

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