The power of spoken word has been passed down for centuries and resonates in our music, everyday lives and poems. Aurora has its very own Poet Laureate responsible for adding meaning to special events around the city. But what is a poet Laureate anyways? Poet Laureate Karen Christensen explains it for us.
<p>Joey Thurman:<br />Poet Laureate. What is a poet Laureate?<br /><br />Karen Christensen:<br />So a poet laureate is someone who is appointed to celebrate things going on in civic life, in the community. And the origin probably goes back to the middle ages, maybe the 14th century, and so kings and wealthy people would bring in writers to basically, in a way, use poetry to make them look good. So kind of public relations sort of thing.<br /><br />Joey Thurman:<br />Okay.<br /><br />Karen Christensen:<br />And it's just evolved over the years. Probably the most famous poet laureate for people around here was Gwendolyn Brooks who's a pretty famous African American writer and in fact, there's an elementary school in Aurora named after her.<br /><br />Joey Thurman:<br />What made you want to start writing poetry? You said you've been doing this since you were a kid. What really brought you in, that's not a thing that you hear a lot. Maybe music or sports, but poetry? Where did that come from?<br /><br />Karen Christensen:<br />Well, actually I am a child of the sixties and when I was in high school, that was the era of the folk music revival. And so along with most of my friends, we all got acoustic guitars and learned how to play folk music. And many of us made attempts to write music. And my music was pretty terrible, but my lyrics were actually pretty good. And I got encouragement. I had two great high school English teachers who let us bring in our own work, but also they had us interpret the lyrics from songs. So this was the era of Bob Dylan, obviously, and Donovan and Phil Ochs and writers like that. So I was really just in the right place as a kid at the right time. And I happened to be in a high school that had really supportive English teachers.<br /><br />Joey Thurman:<br />Yeah. Okay. Now a lot of people are stressed and their minds are overwhelmed. How can poetry help them?<br /><br />Karen Christensen:<br />Poetry is a great way to process what you're experiencing. And it also is a great way to help you understand what you're experiencing. And in fact, at the very beginning of the pandemic, the woman who was the director at The Paramount School of the Arts put together a little panel discussion on Zoom. I was a participant, there were a couple of other people, and we generally just talked about how creativity can bloom in the time of stress. And it can, and as, particularly if you feel very isolated from other people. If you're putting your thoughts down on paper, it's almost like you're having a dialogue with yourself. You don't even have to show your work to anyone. And the idea of being able to go back and look at it and not feel constrained. I mean, that's the key, not feeling like there's a sensor telling you what words to use or what style to use, to just let it flow.<br /><br />Karen Christensen:<br />And I do think in so many aspects of my life that I can imagine and recreate probably some of the best poetry I've written has been when I've been going through some really tough times.<br /><br />Karen Christensen:<br />Talking City. The Talking City is on the street, in a coffee shop or the skinny park, right across the bridge in the light of day or a Friday night, in the speeches made to the dancing throngs, tells the place we were and the place we are. A vibe that sweeps through the endless sky, floating down the Fox and upstream again. It goes on forever. It fuels our hope. It writes our dreams. Plays the songs we sing. Paints the walls we build. Circles round and round and comes back again.</p>