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Meet Lansing’s new poet laureate Laura Apol

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WEDNESDAY, April 24 — From running poetry workshops for survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis to leading international poetry studies for MSU in Thailand, Britain and France, Laura Apol is a world trekker who believes in the power of poetry as a means of self-healing and expression.

“The position of poet laureate puts poetry in the public eye,” Apol said. “For me in particular, it means an opportunity to work with those who already see themselves as poets or lovers of poetry as well as those who think it is not relevant to their lives.”

Apol was chosen by a panel of 12 poets and scholars from the Lansing Poet Laureate Selection Committee. The panel processed applications since February 1. The position of poet laureate acts as an ambassador of poetry for the tri-county region.

At MSU, Apol works as an associate professor of literacy and curriculum in the College of Education, teaching poetry to faculty.

“We really need teachers who can work with kids and schools because that is where change can happen,” Apol said.

“I proposed we also include poetry in our curriculum because we recognized teachers who were going to teach poetry to children didn't feel confident or passionate about it. If you are going to teach it, you have to fall in love with it.”

President of the Lansing Poetry Club Ruelaine Stokes said she is excited to see what Apol brings to the table. “Laura is a fabulously skilled poet and teacher of creative writing,” Stokes said.

Apol’s 2018 release on MSU Press, “Nothing But the Blood,” won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award in the poetry category.

The “laurel” will officially be passed on May 3 from outgoing and inaugural Lansing poet laureate Dennis Hinrichsen who has held the title since 2017. Both poet laureates are scheduled to read poetry during the event. The event is free and open to the public.

During his time in the position, Hinrichsen championed the Lansing Sidewalk Poetry Project, etching poetry from local poets in Lansing neighborhoods and landmarks.  

Apol has a few plans of her own, she said.

“One of the ideas we had is to put poetry on the radio so when people can go to work, they can listen to poems. What I’d really love is to have those poems not just be written and read as poets, but to have kids from classrooms read and people who are recognizable in the community read to try out their voices for the first time.”

Apol will serve for a two-year term. The Lansing Poet Laureate position is sponsored by the MSU Residential College for Arts and Humanities, Lansing Economic Area Partnership and Lansing Poetry Club.

“We need poems. They teach us — about ourselves, about each other, about the world, and about our place in the world. As individuals and as a community, poems help us know and be more, and can lead us to thoughtful reflection, to respectful engagement, and to growth and change,” Apol said.

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