- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

HOUGHTON, Mich. (AP) - Once, Andrea Scarpino assumed poets were dead.

“I loved Emily Dickinson, for example, and I just kind of thought poets aren’t active living people,” she told The Daily Mining Gazette ( https://bit.ly/1XX8h8i ). “It wasn’t until I got to college and started taking creative writing classes that I was like, ‘Oh, people can do this still. I get it.’”

The Marquette writer has since put out a collection of her poetry (with another on the way) and last spring was named to a two-year term as the Upper Peninsula’s poet laureate.

The very-much-alive Scarpino came to Michigan Technological University, where she did a reading recently and met with English and psychology classes during the day. As poet laureate, she said she’s tried to meet both with those who have an interest in poetry and those who haven’t followed it.

“I’ve found classroom visits to be really helpful, because you’ve got people who are used to thinking hard, reading and analyzing,” she said.



The post of U.P. poet laureate was created after a grassroots effort in 2013, in which Russell Thorburn was named as the inaugural poet. The Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters, a literary non-profit group, nominated Scarpino and four others to be his successor. More than 15,000 people voted in the subsequent election.

Where Thorburn’s emphasis was on bringing poetry to younger children, Scarpino has reached out to connect poetry with older people. One project was a Free Little Poetry Library, made by a friend of hers out of Upper Peninsula materials, which been in such places as the Marquette County Fair and Finlandia University.

“I think people think of poetry as something that smart people in ivory towers do, and what I want to try to do during my time is to help people to recognize that all of us can be doing poetry, and it can be a very public art form,” she said.

Scarpino showed an interest in language and stories at an early age. Before she could even write, she would dictate poems to her mother, who typed them up. It wasn’t until she got to college that Scarpino realized she could be a poet.

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Information from: The Daily Mining Gazette, https://www.mininggazette.com

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