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Caddo Parish Poet Laureate Selected

The Caddo Parish Commission has selected Ashley Mace Havird as the 2018 Caddo Parish Poet Laureate. She will serve a three-year term through March 2020.

The Shreveport Regional Arts Council will host a reception and presentation honoring newly appointed Caddo Parish Poet Laureate, Ashley Mace Havird, on April 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Artspace, 708 Texas Street in downtown Shreveport.

Havird replaces Carlos Colon, the parish's first Poet Laureate, who served from 2014 until his death in the fall of 2016.

As Poet Laureate, Havird will receive an annual $1,500 honorarium each year for a period of three years, provided by the J.B. Atkins Foundation. Caddo Parish is the only Parish in Louisiana to recognize and engage an outstanding poet and to have its own Poet Laureate who is chosen using the same guidelines as those employed in the selection of the Louisiana Poet Laureate.

SRAC invited Louisiana Poet Laureate, Dr. Jack Bedell, to Shreveport to give local published poets advice on how to become Caddo Parish’s new Poet Laureate as well as to present some of his own award-winning poetry.

Bedell was named the state’s Poet Laureate by Gov. John Bel Edwards in August of 2017 and said that his primary goal as the state Poet Laureate would be to shine light on all of the great poetry produced throughout Louisiana. Bedell is a professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University and the author of nine books.

Bedell was asked to review the applicants for Caddo Parish Poet Laureate and to make a recommendation to the Caddo Commission, though the selection was entirely up to the Commission. Bedell said that the pool of applicants was extremely diverse and that he was impressed by each artist’s desire for outreach, education and inclusion—all important for the future of arts programming in the Caddo Parish region.

Bedell recommended Havird for the position, saying, “Havird is published in some of the country’s finest literary journals and has a laudable history in arts education, workshop instruction, and community outreach—all important to the civil/social responsibilities inherent to the Laureate’s duties on behalf of the Parish.

"Havird’s poems are incredibly well crafted, and she controls such a wide array of subjects with a deft hand. I am positive she will foster excellent programs throughout Caddo Parish celebrating and advancing interest in poetry over the course of her term as Poet Laureate, particularly among young writers.”

Poems submitted by Havird as a part of her application included “Late for Reading, 1959,” “The Gardener,” and “Fixing Junior,” which was published in the “South Carolina Review.”

Havird has been a resident of Caddo Parish for 30 years and a publishing poet for 25. Her collection of poems, "The Garden of the Fugitives," won the X.J. Kennedy Prize, and her novel, "Lightningstruck," won the Ferrol Sams Award.

As Caddo Parish Poet Laureate, she hopes to give more visibility to the many diverse poets throughout Caddo Parish by promoting or organizing readings, workshops, and poetry appreciation classes in schools, libraries, retirement communities and more.

“It is such an honor to be chosen as the Caddo Parish Poet Laureate, and I am overjoyed by the opportunity to be able to advance poetry within my home Parish,” said Havird.

“I believe that reading and writing poetry inspires in an almost literal sense; it is life-giving in this age of sound bites and shallow generalizations. Remarkable projects are underway in and around Shreveport to bridge cultural differences—the YWCA-sponsored 'Dialogue on Race' series and the Hope Connections Homeless Coalition, to name only two. Poetry, which uses the beauty and power of language to reach some form of truth, can complement these efforts to make the parish a stronger, more compassionate place to live."


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