01/24/2023 9:55 am
By Sara Myers | January 24, 2023
Jenna Goldsmith, a Rockford University English-Literature Lecturer, has been named Rockford’s 2nd Poet Laureate. Goldsmith was sworn in to her role at Rockford City Hall at 425 E. State St. in Rockford on Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. by Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.
In her role as Rockford’s 2nd Poet Laureate, Goldsmith will be an ambassador for poetry in Rockford for the next two years and also gets to work on a special project.
“The theme for my two years is poetry in new places,” Goldsmith said. “One of my hopes is that I can enlist the literary community in Rockford to create poetry that can end up in some very unexpected places. The DMV, the dump… places that you’ve wound up at and are not feeling very inspired, but maybe a poem on the wall that you discover can be inspirational.”
The Poet Laureate role is quite new for the City of Rockford, Goldsmith is just the second person in this role. Goldsmith applied for the position by submitting multiple materials and doing a reading for the committee. The committee is in conjunction with the Rockford Area Arts Council and the Rockford Public Library.
“This is very on brand for me,” Goldsmith said. “I applied sort of on a whim. I really didn’t think it was going to be possible for me given the fact that I just moved back to the area. Though, I very much consider this place home.”
It was hard for Goldsmith to choose what reading to perform for the committee. She’s released four chapbooks of poetry in her career so far. In 2022 alone, she released the chapbooks “TITLE NINE” and “CRUSH.” “CRUSH” was the winner of the 2022 Baltic Writing Residency Chapbook.
“My poetry tends to be intense, kind of journalistic, and even experimental,” she said. “The poetry that I felt would be best to share with the committee would probably be narrative, tell a story and maybe have some kind of hopefulness in it.”
Goldsmith ultimately decided to submit two different writings that showed her range to the committee, and ultimately, earned her the position.
Goldsmith moved back to the Rockford area in the summer of 2022 and started as a lecturer in the English Department at RU in August 2022 where she teaches Rhetoric 101 and 102. This fall she will teach a graduate poetry class for teachers finishing their coursework at RU.
She previously attended high school in Belvidere, Illinois, and received her associate’s degree from Rock Valley College. Goldsmith received her bachelor and master’s degree from Illinois State University, and later got her Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky.
Goldsmith previously worked at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, for five years and then worked at Illinois State University for around a year before joining the RU English Department.
“I was telling a colleague in the English department yesterday, I don’t think this role is above birthday parties,” she said. “I think being able to bring poetry where it’s wanted is part of this role. That’s what I’m most excited about.”
More about Goldsmith and her work can be found at her website, jennalgoldsmith.com.
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