Marquette poet laureate takes craft to classrooms
Houghton — 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 said. “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 along with 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.