UW Oshkosh alumna Karla Huston was named the Poet Laureate of Wisconsin.
According to the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, the duty of a Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate is to “strive to enrich the lives of Wisconsin residents by sharing the values of poetry, creativity and artistic expression across the state.”
Huston said many accomplishments have led to being named a Poet Laureate.
“I have a long string of publishing credits including eight chapbooks as well as a full collection of poems,” Huston said. “I teach adult poetry writing here in the Fox Cities through The Mill: A Place for Writers. In addition, I’ve participated in many state-wide writing groups including Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and Council for Wisconsin Writers.”
Huston also said she believes that what ultimately led to being named a Poet Laureate was her involvement in the conversation of writing.
“I believe the Poet Laureate Commission was or is looking for a poet who had some writing skill-someone who has published and also participated in the conversation of writing,” Huston said.
Huston has received many awards for her work, including the Pushcart Prize and Outstanding Achievement Award for her full-length collection of poems, “A Theory of Lipstick,” but she says her greatest joy is working with other writers.
“I’ve won or placed in several state and local writing contests, too many to name,” Huston said. “Awards are nice, don’t get me wrong, but I get more pleasure working with adult writers, especially those who’ve not written much poetry before. I love to see their faces when they ‘get it,’ and write a poem that just works. I love to see their excitement when they find poems they like.”
Huston said it is an honor to be named a Poet Laureate among many other fine poets in the state.
“To say I was excited is an understatement,” Huston said. “I was also tremendously honored to be selected to represent the state as a Poet Laureate. It’s exciting and humbling. There are many fine poets in this state.”
Huston received a Bachelor of Science in English from UWO in 1993, and Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing from UWO in 2003.
Pamela Gemin, Academic Advisor to Huston during her time at UWO, said
“I was delighted to hear that Karla had been chosen Wisconsin Poet Laureate” Gemin said. “She’s an energetic, dedicated poet who has never sat around and waited for a muse. She’s always lived her art—both reading and writing poetry are a natural part of each day for Karla, like eating and breathing, and we’re lucky that she is so willing to share her talent.”
Huston said she is grateful to professor Douglas Flaherty for helping her to earn a M.A. degree.
“Most of the teachers I had are now retired, but one in particular, Douglas Flaherty, was wonderful and worked with me on several independent studies so I could earn that Master of Arts,” Huston said.
Abayomi Animashaun, English Lecturer, said The Poet Laureate position is very important to our community.
“The Poet Laureate of a country or state is an ambassador of the arts,” Animashaun said. “During her tenure, she is also the face of poetry. She is the person many readers of poetry will seek, precisely because she’s been tasked with reminding them-indeed all of us-of the beauty inherent in words and sounds and the joy that comes from journeying with a poem until one arrives at insight and delight. The Poet Laureate embodies the best in poetry when it comes to community, the best in poetry when it comes to craft.”
Huston said students pursuing a future in writing should never lose hope.
“My first piece of advice is not to give up,” Huston said. “Find your passion and follow it. Being a writer doesn’t cost any more than a good pen and something to write on. You can have a ‘day job’ and still write. Secondly, if you want to be a writer, there are two important things to do: write madly and read voraciously. Words are your currency! The more words you know, the better writer you’ll be.”