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Town's first poet laureate introduced with her own words

Miriam Levine / Photo by Stanley RowinMiriam Levine / Photo by Stanley Rowin

UPDATED, July 15: Arlington's first poet laureate, Miriam Levine, received the selectmen's blessing Monday, July 13.

Introduced as an ambassador for the spoken and written word, Levine did was laureate's do -- she read a poem, "Surfer at Wellfleet":

Where does he get
the patience to wait through the twilight, rocking
on his stomach in the break and surge,
head to the side, as if he were sleeping? It's freezing
in the afterglow when he finally rises on his lone long ride home.

She drew out the last four words, before applause.

Championed by Selectmen Joseph Curro Jr., the article for the laureate passed Town Meeting's rhyme scheme in 2014. The poet aims to promote the reading, writing and appreciation of poetry among the general public through workshops and readings as well as administer a poetry contest.

Curro said he hope Levine will "tap into the great talent in our town .... and inspire younger people."

Jane Howard, long an arts advocate in town and a laureate committee member, spoke for Liza Halley, the chairwoman, who could not be present.

Howard called the decision among 10 applicants difficult and said all are delighted with the choice. Committee members present were Secretary John Burt, Pamela Powell and Jeff Boudreau.

Office hours at Robbins Library

Writing to the Arlington email list July 15, Levine noted she will hold office hours at Robbins Library, on Thursdays and Tuesdays, beginning Thursday, July 23, 7 to 8:30 p.m. The Tuesday sessions: 3 to 5 p.m. Find her on the third floor near the balcony with the bee hives.

"Drop by with one of your poems," she wrote.

On her website, Levine writes that she is "in people and their stories." Her most recent book, The Dark Opens, won the 2007 Autumn House Poetry Prize

She is the author In Paterson, a novel about the New Jersey city of her birth, as well as Devotion: A Memoir, three poetry collections and A Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. Her work has appeared in Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review and Ploughshares.

A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts writing fellowship and grants from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, she was a fellow at Yaddo, Hawthornden Castle, Le Château de Lavigny, Villa Montalvo, Fundación Valparaíso and the Millay Colony for the Arts.

She is professor emerita at Framingham State College, where she chaired the English Department and was coordinator of the arts and humanities program.

Selectman Diane Mahon, who said she has long known Levine, recalls playing at her house when young. “I have a lot of great childhood memories," she said.

A July 3 memo telling selectmen its choice, the committee interviewed four of the 10 applicants.

"Each interview consisted of queries to the applicants about their vision, time constraints, outreach and other ideas around the Poet Laureate position with time for questions from each applicant," the memo says. "Unanimously the Committee felt that Dr. Levine's interview stood out - she has special quality that makes all around her want to lean in and listen more closely."

'It's heartening to hear ...'

In her June 2 application, Levine wrote: "It's heartening to hear the good news of the Town's support for the arts, poetry in particular."

At Framingham State, she wrote, "I was responsible for bringing writers to campus for readings and workshops. In my Creative Writing and literature classes I drew my students to poetry, as writers and appreciators.

"If chosen as Arlington Poet Laureate I would do the same, by giving workshops and readings, acting as moderator for panels on poetry, visiting classes in the public schools, and participating in town-wide events. Last year I was a panel member at the Arlington Book Festival, which I hope will be a yearly event.

"My enthusiasm for poetry has never wavered, and I believe I would be an enthusiastic spokesperson for this wonderful art."

The board voted, 5-0, to support the appointment, which is for one year.

This report was published Tuesday, July 14, 2015, and updated July 15, to add office hours

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