AMESBURY — One of the city's most exclusive clubs, the Amesbury poet laureate program, is looking for its next member.
The Amesbury Cultural Council and the Whittier Home Association created the program in 2015. Stephen Wagner is the second poet laureate after taking over for Lainie Senechal in 2017.
Senechal and Wagner read poetry during municipal inauguration ceremonies in 2016 and 2018, and have been tasked with increasing poetry's reach in the city.
"The program has been very successful," Senechal said. "We have certainly had a lot of poetry events and poetry has been incorporated in many different ways."
Each poet laureate serves a two-year term. Wagner's will be up at the end of the year, so the City Council and Whittier Home are seeking applicants.
Interested poets can apply at www.amesburyculturalcouncil.org/poet-laureate-application. Selection will be based on the applicant's body of work, including published work; the candidate's ability to engage residents, schoolchildren and the business community; organizational skills; and specific plans to promote poets and poetry in Amesbury.
The appointment carries an annual $500 stipend and requires the poet to contribute to the community through activities promoting poets and poetry.
"This is not just an honorary position," Senechal said. "Because of that, we expect the poet laureate to put events together for April's Poetry Month, we expect them to have regular events and to work with organizations in the city to promote poetry. But, at the same time, it is their vision and how they want to make that happen. Because, everyone is different."
Senechal created a monthly poetry program at Amesbury Public Library during her tenure as the city's poet laureate and has brought National Poetry Month into the foreground each April.
Wagner initiated an open mic night and a trivia night at BareWolf Brewing each month and has become almost as well known for his black-and-white "star suit" as he is for his poetry.
"I originally purchased it a few years ago because the word 'stars' is in the title of the novel I wrote," To Dance with Death Beneath the Falling Stars: A very short novel, Wagner said. "If we're doing something at the Whittier Home, I would wear a more proper suit. But, if it is a more lighthearted event, I’ll opt to wear the star suit because it is funnier."
Humor is a big part of Wagner's poetry. He said he was working as an office administrator at an energy-efficiency consulting firm and growing tired of his employees filing their time cards out late.
So Wagner began emailing his workers an original poem each week that would include the word "time sheet" somewhere in it. Wagner's time sheet poems were eventually collected in another book, "Time Sheets: A Collection of Poems.”
"Poetry is seen as something that you can't have fun with and I am trying to correct that assumption," Wagner said. "My motto is, 'Bringing poetry to the masses so that they may see it and join ranks with it.' So, I'm trying to have fun with it."
All Wagner said he asks of the next poet laureate is that he or she has a vision.
"This is about trying to get poetry through to people," Wagner said. "That is a little tricky in today's day and age. Poetry is not something that people naturally go toward. I don't mind if (the next poet laureate) is more of a light, humorous type of poet or a serious, meditative poet. I think what is important is that we are really engaged in sharing poetry with the public."
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.
Editor's note: This story corrects information to reflect the fact the Amesbury Cultural Council was one of the groups which created the poet laureate program. That fact was not mentioned in an earlier version.