Dr. Benjamin Myers, Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature, has been appointed as Oklahoma's State Poet Laureate for 2015-16. Myers is an award-winning author and scholar whose poems have appeared in prominent international journals. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin appointed him to the position.
"Through his poetry, Dr. Benjamin Myers demonstrates a deep love and kinship to Oklahoma," Fallin said. "His poetry about our state offers a nuanced view of our people, our land, and the values that we hold dear. I am delighted to select a talented scholar such as Dr. Myers, whose work has been published in renowned international journals, to serve as Oklahoma's State Poet Laureate. I am confident that his passion for Oklahoma will resonate with students and adults as he shares and fosters the art of poetry in communities throughout our state."
Born and raised in central Oklahoma, Myers said he was honored and deeply moved when he learned of his appointment.
"Oklahoma is more to me than just the place I live; it is my home, my homeland," he said. "The opportunity to combine my deep love for this land with my love for poetry is an opportunity I am very thankful for. I've always belonged to Oklahoma, and now I am honored to be its poet. I am also honored to follow in the footsteps of many previous laureates whose work I greatly admire and who have inspired me throughout my career."
As poet laureate, Myers hopes to encourage the art of poetry in Oklahoma. He intends to spend his term promoting the work of great Oklahoma poets, past and present, and encouraging Oklahomans of all ages and backgrounds to read and write poems. "I am eager to visit schools, universities, libraries, and community organizations to talk about poetry," he said. "I want people to know that poetry is not an elitist form of art, that poetry can enrich everybody's life in a number of ways."
"Poetry is good for the soul," Myers said. "Without poetry, and without art in general, the soul lacks an essential part of its necessary diet."
Myers is the 2015-2016 Poet Laureate of the State of Oklahoma and the author of two books of poetry, "Lapse Americana" (New York Quarterly Books, 2013) and "Elegy for Trains" (Village Books Press, 2010). His poems may be read in The Yale Review, The New York Quarterly, 32 Poems, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Redivider and other journals, as well as on the Verse Daily website. He is a frequent reviewer of works of contemporary poetry for "World Literature Today," "Books and Culture," and other journals. He has been honored with an Oklahoma Book Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, and with a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference.
When asked how his position as Oklahoma Poet Laureate reflects on OBU, he said, "My prayer is that it will reflect well on OBU. I think it is good for the public to see OBU's professors investing themselves and their talents in the wider community around us, and I pray that I will live up to that challenge. I also hope that my appointment will draw some attention specifically to the fine Creative Writing and English programs we have at OBU. I hope I will meet some students along the way who want to come to Bison Hill and spend four years growing as a writer and exploring the art with me, Dr. Newsom, and our colleagues in the English department."
The State Poet Laureate program is facilitated by the Oklahoma Arts Council on behalf of the governor. The OAC works with the State Poet Laureate to coordinate activities and appearances in communities throughout the state. He will be reading at Cameron University, in the "Big Pasture Reading Series" April 17. To schedule an appearance, contact the Oklahoma Arts Council or email Myers directly at email@example.com.
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The Council's mission is to lead, cultivate and support a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education and economic vitality for all Oklahomans. The Council provides more than 500 grants to over 250 organizations statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages hundreds of works of art in the public spaces of the state Capitol. Additional information is available at arts.ok.gov.