Very first Norman Poet Laureate installed in office


May 1 – Norman officially becomes Oklahoma’s first city with a Poet Laureate.

Julie Ann Ward, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Oklahoma, was announced for the position during a ceremony celebrating Poetry Month Wednesday evening at the Norman Public Library Central. During the event, she read three poems: “Self Portrait”, “Elm Street: Elegy” and “Maybe We Are Poets”.

“I’m shocked. I feel honoured. I guess I would say I’m surprised and I’m also very grateful,” said Ward, who was nominated by her friend, Camille Germany. “I also feel so humbled, because I know this is a city of great creators and great poets, so to be chosen to help promote poetry in the community and to have the chance to share my work is a lesson in life. humility and such an honor.”

She said her husband, Joey, was very proud of her and read his own poetry into an open mic. Also, her parents were thrilled to hear the news.

Ward described the Wednesday night crowd as warm and welcoming to his date, and the crowd seemed thrilled that Norman had his first Poet Laureate.

“The crowd was very energized. People were really excited to share their own work and talk about poetry and really celebrate poetry,” she said.

Joshua Caudill, a Norman Public Library Central information services librarian who was on the selection committee, said Ward was selected from a pool of 10 applicants and some applicants were nominated by other applicants.

Applicants were considered based on four criteria: level of community engagement, involvement and awareness; professional qualifications and publication history; the quality of the writing and the ability to represent Norman in his diversity of residents. The initial slate was first narrowed down to five before the members voted, and Ward was determined as the top candidate.

“We have a vibrant artistic community, but we also have a very supportive and collaborative community,” Caudill said. “I think she’s going to be a great person for the job.”

He said he was delighted Norman had a Poet Laureate.

“Norman has historically invested heavily in its arts communities, and I think we’re proud to be the first city in Oklahoma with a Poet Laureate, and it’s only natural that we are because we’ve always invested in artists.” , did he declare. mentioned.

Ward was hired at OU in 2014 to teach in the Spanish department, specifically Latin American literature, theater and culture, Spanish language classes, conversation, composition, and literary theory.

Ward, who was born in Antlers, said poetry has been a part of her life since she was a child.

“When I was a kid, one of my favorite activities was writing. When I was in high school, I was really into literature,” she said. “Growing up, I started studying Spanish. I started reading literature in other languages, and I continued to make it an important part of my life.”

When she was 5, Ward’s family moved from Antlers to Elko, Nevada, until she reached college age. Then her family moved to Stillwater, where she attended high school. In high school, she attended the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute in poetry, where one of her poems was selected for publication.

She earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Tulsa, a master’s degree from the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. She returned to Oklahoma when she saw OU’s list of jobs in Latin American literature of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“I just thought, ‘This is my job. I’m going to have to go home.’ I was very happy to get the job offer and to be closer to my parents,” Ward said.

In addition to writing poetry, Ward said he has witnessed the healing power of using language specifically through his work with Poetic Justice in Tulsa, which facilitates restorative writing workshops in prisons and prisons. women’s prisons in Oklahoma, California and Mexico.

“It appears that the women who participate are able to access an innate power of healing and treatment and also support each other when writing poetry, in particular,” Ward said.

She said she likes to experiment with different poetic forms.

“I think sometimes form can be liberating if you have a container. It kind of helps you organize and find boundaries. If you’re going to have a certain number of syllables that you’re going to use or if you’re going to try to follow a certain rhyme pattern, sometimes it helps you create unexpected combinations,” she said.

Growing up, his favorite poet was Shel Silverstein. Now her favorite is the Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo. She also enjoys reading fiction novels.

She said that when she taught Vallejo’s poetry in class last week, several students cried and one student told her it was “the most impactful poetry she had ever read and could feel it in his chest, and I feel the same”.

Outside of poetry, Ward said her hobbies include gardening, walking, running, and reading.

Ward said her biggest influences were her family, including her sister and father, who printed the works she wrote on her laptop. Her teachers were also encouraging, especially Nedra Segall, an English teacher at Stillwater High School.

She was also encouraged to attend the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute hosted at OU, where she read poetry on the Catlett Stage in front of an audience and learned the process of writing and submitting poetry. She said she was particularly honored when Francine Ringold, editor of the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry and a judge there, published one of her poems in the journal.

As Poet Laureate, Ward said she looks forward to meeting more people who love poetry in Norman, to working with the library, which is one of her favorite institutions, and to being part of the community of a new way.

“I think we’re all poets. I think every time we pay attention to words and language and their creative power, we’re tapping into an ancient magical connection that humans have with each other. I think that’s really special, and so I I think that must be what keeps me coming back [to poetry]”Ward said.

Jamie Berry covers general, police and legal news for The Transcript. Reach her at, 366-3532 or @JamieStitches13.


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