Thomas Cannon is the first Oshkosh Poet Laureate


OSHKOSH – When Thomas Cannon learned that the city of Oshkosh was creating his first post as Poet Laureate, he was encouraged to apply. Although he was excited about the community, he doubted he would fit.

“I don’t really believe I’m Oshkosh’s best poet,” Cannon said.

But then he realized that was the point: he was hoping other people would think, if this guy is a poet, I can write poetry too.

“Better” may be subjective, but it turns out Cannon is well qualified for the job.

Ruth Percey, deputy director of public services at the Oshkosh Public Library, said Cannon has been instrumental in developing a local writers’ community. He helped found the Oshkosh Region Writers’ Group with Percey in 2002 and has been an active member ever since. It promotes and supports the Lakefly Writers Conference in Oshkosh and co-hosts the local cable TV show Author’s showcase.

“Tom (Cannon) is just natural for promoting creativity, writing and publishing in the community because he already has,” said Percey. “It felt like a natural fit for this position.

Cannon has always loved writing in all its forms. He graduated in English from UW-Stevens Point in 1990 and has subsequently written novels, short stories and poetry.

He is particularly passionate about poetry.

“Poetry is a great way to work on ourselves, solve problems, and bring us to a happier state of mind,” he said. “The simple act of writing activates another part of your brain so that maybe you can find a solution.”

Thomas Cannon has big plans for the new job

He’s still in the early days of his new role, but he already has some big ideas, including hosting open mic parties, speaking at schools, and moderating an online group where people can share their thoughts. job.

He also works with library staff to plan National Poetry Month in April.

“I really want to involve people in writing poetry and have a platform where people can read their work aloud, share it with others,” he said.

He encourages people to join the Oshkosh Poet Laureate Facebook Page for updates as well as a space to share poetry and provide comments on his position.

The post of Poet Laureate was championed by Mayor Lori Palmeri, who said she was part of a poetry group when she lived in the Appleton area, and was inspired by Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Go Up”.

“Ideally, (the Poet Laureate) adds another asset to Oshkosh’s already rich artistic community and elevates art to another dimension through speech,” said Palmeri.

How Oshkosh’s poet laureate was formed

The post was created by the municipal council and is a partnership with the Oshkosh Public Library and the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A selection committee reviewed applications for the position and Cannon was selected. He will commission one original poem per year.

He will be a Poet Laureate for two years, after which Palmeri said it would be up to the council and the community if they wanted this to continue.

She hopes they will.

“It’s a small investment for what could be a really cool and big return in bringing some cohesion to the community,” she said.

Palmeri has admitted that she doesn’t write or read as much poetry as before, but she hopes this post will encourage her and others to pursue the hobby.

Poetry can be satisfying, create a sense of calm

Cannon has similar goals for the next two years. He said poetry can seem intimidating – sometimes, even to him – but writing and revising to get the “right words in the right order” is satisfying.

Plus, he thinks it helps create a sense of calm, which makes people more open and vulnerable.

“If people are more at peace, they are in a better frame of mind,” Cannon said. “They are more apt to listen and more apt to understand.”

A virtual reception to celebrate the first poet laureate will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. via Zoom. Cannon will speak and share a poem. Palmeri and state poet Dasha Kelly Hamilton will deliver remarks. RSVP to Percey at [email protected] to receive the Zoom link.

Contact Katy Macek at [email protected] or 920-426-6658. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMacek.

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