Pledging to "celebrate voices in the state," college professor and award-winning writer Joyce Sutphen has been named Minnesota's new poet laureate.
Gov. Mark Dayton announced Tuesday that Sutphen will serve as the new advocate, lover and promoter of Minnesota poets and poetry.
"Joyce Sutphen is a talented writer and teacher who will be a great voice for poetry in Minnesota," Dayton said at a news conference.
Sutphen, who lives in Chaska and teaches creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, said she intends to host several events around the state to showcase the work of other Minnesota poets. She also plans to use the honorary, unpaid post to help Minnesotans get a better sense of how poetry can slice through the world's complexities.
"What's important is sitting on your porch and watching the twilight come," said Sutphen, 62. Poetry, she said, "distills the world in a real special way."
Sutphen has published several books, including "Naming the Stars," published in 2004 by Holy Cow! Press in Duluth. That work went on to win the Minnesota Book Award for poetry. She has contributed regularly to "The Writer's Almanac," hosted by Garrison Keillor.
Sutphen said she got wind that she would become Minnesota's second official muse last week. She succeeds Robert Bly, whom former Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed in 2007 after the Legislature created the position.
The Minnesota Humanities Center, a nonprofit organization, is responsible for soliciting nominations, screening candidates and making recommendations to the governor.
David O'Fallon, president of the Humanities Center, said a new poet laureate might be just the thing to better help Minnesotans understand the world at a time that is a little unnerving politically, culturally and economically.
"We really need poetry at this time that is a little divisive and a little crazy," he said.
Sutphen admitted it will take some time getting used to the role of Minnesota's poetry czar.
"We are still in the planning stages," she said. "Normally, I like to be to the side, watching things happen."
Minnesota's poetry community warmly embraced Sutphen in her new role, which she will hold for four years.
"What a delightful surprise," said Jim Perlman, publisher of Holy Cow! Press. "She's very talented and personable. I have always had a fondness for her poetry and for her as a person."
Duluth poet Louis Jenkins is a longtime friend of Sutphen.
"She's a terrific poet," Jenkins said. "She's Minnesota born and bred. I can't think of a better poet laureate."
When describing her work, Jenkins said: "It's always fresh and always surprising."
Sutphen might be Minnesota's second official poet laureate, but several others have been unofficially dubbed the state's top bard.
In 1934, the national Poet Laureate League named Margaret Ball Dickson poet laureate of Minnesota, according to Dayton's office. Former Gov. Floyd B. Olson recognized her title in a letter. Readers of the Minneapolis Star unofficially chose Laurene Tibbetts-Larson for the position in 1973.
Legislators first introduced a bill to make the position official in 1974, but the measure failed to win approval.
Baird Helgeson • 651-222-1288