Knoxville Poet Laureate Visited JCPL

Knoxville Poet Laureate Marilyn Kallet visited your Library on Thursday, March 28. Dr. Kallet read selections of her poetry as well as lead a mini-workshop titled “Writing Praise Poems in Troubled Times” in the Jones Meeting Room. This event was made possible through a partnership with the Poetry Society of Tennessee – Northeast Branch (PST-NE).

Dr. Kallet, who spent her early life in both Alabama and New York, says, “I grew up not knowing where my real roots were.” But moving to Knoxville in 1981, Dr. Kallet found a place to be “planted” and has lived there ever since. She was named Knoxville’s poet laureate in June 2018. In this position, she gets to celebrate the city with which she says she is “in love” by writing poetry for civic occasions and city-focused events. According to Dr. Kallet, she draws poetic inspiration from all aspects of life in east Tennessee. “Everything here has resonance for me,” she explains. “I’ve written odes to the city, to the fireflies and the sometimes-cold weather. I’ve written about antisemitism and the Tennessee Highway Patrol and even UT’s campus police dog, K-9 Officer Bruno.” One of her recent tributes to the city can be found below.


Knoxville Love Song

Knoxville, you unfurl
When dogwoods burst
Like jazz hands in April.
You explode our skies in July
When America came to be.
No easy birth, so
Each July we renew
Our vows, here
In the cradle of magnolias
And maples,
In the garden of poets: Nikki G.,
R.B., James Agee.

Knoxville, you gleam in every
Season. We adore your
Redbuds and brazen
Crepe myrtle.
We dedicate these song-
Blossoms to our mothers
And fathers, to
Our children who will
Tend them.
Knoxville, you lend perfume
To sultry summer evenings,
You promise a harmony of fragrances
And blooms. You offer our
Knoxville Symphony,
Fired up each July.
You are playing our proud love song,
Knoxville, Tennessee.


Dr. Kallet is the author of 18 books, including most recently the collection of poetry How Our Bodies Learned. Her other works include translations, critical essays, children’s books, pedagogy, and anthologies of women’s literature. Dr. Kallet is Professor Emerita at the University of Tennessee, where she taught for 37 years. For a decade, she has led poetry workshops and writing residencies in Auvillar, France. She performs her poetry on campuses and in theaters across the U.S., France, and Poland as a guest of the U.S. Embassy’s “America Presents” program.

For more information on Dr. Kallet and her work, visit Follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook and Instagram for updates on this event and other programming.

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