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Sydney Lea '64 is Vermont's new poet laureate

SEPTEMBER 9 - MONTPELIER — The Vermont Arts Council is pleased to announce that Gov. Peter Shumlin has appointed Sydney Lea of Newbury as Vermont's next Poet Laureate to succeed Ruth Stone, whose four-year term ends in 2011. A public ceremony honoring Mr. Lea will be held on Nov. 4 at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Montpelier. The ceremony will be attended by Gov. Shumlin as part of an evening celebrating the arts in Vermont.

Sydney Lea lives in Newbury and has been a Vermont resident since the early 1990s. He is the prolific author of a number of collections of poetry, including Young of the Year (Four Way Books, 2011); Ghost Pain (Sarabande Books, 2005); Pursuit of a Wound (University of Illinois Press, 2000); To the Bone: New and Selected Poems (University of Illinois Press, 1996); Prayer for the Little City (Scribner's, 1989); No Sign (University of Georgia Press, 1987); The Floating Candles (University of Illinois Press, 1982), and Searching the Drowned Man (University of Illinois Press, 1980).

Syd Lea has been described as "a man in the woods with his head full of books, and a man in books with his head full of woods." Renowned as a prose writer as well as poet, he has also published a novel and two books of essays that combine the precision of an active naturalist and ecologist with the erudition of a multilingual professor of literature. His stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Gray's Sporting Journal, and many other periodicals, as well as in more than forty anthologies. Lea co-founded the literary quarterly New England Review in 1977, oversaw its move to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference at Middlebury College, and edited this esteemed journal until 1989. His poetry collections have earned special critical acclaim, with Pursuit of a Wound (2000) named one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. His preceding volume, To the Bone: New and Selected Poems, was co-winner of the 1998 Poets' Prize, one of the nation's highest honors for a single collection of poems.

Lea has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations, and has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan, Vermont and Middlebury Colleges as well as at Franklin College in Switzerland and the National Hungarian University in Budapest. Lea has also been very active for the past quarter century in land conservation and the promotion of literacy. See www.sydneylea.net.

The Advisory Committee found Sydney Lea's poetry to be virtuosic in texture and form, yet likely to be engaging to a diversity of readers and listeners because of the work's dramatic intensity, narrative momentum, and musicality, and because of this poet's extraordinarily evocative descriptions of northern New England's landscapes, animal and plant life, and the seasonal panorama. Through all of his books, Lea has paid particular attention to the stories of generations living alongside one another in north-country villages, including the interactions of "old-timers" and relative newcomers. He continues the tradition of Vermont poets who are both singular — one of a kind — and broadly accessible.

POET LAUREATE INFORMATION AND BACKGROUND HISTORY:

Robert Frost was declared Poet Laureate in 1961. In 1988 Governor Kunin re-established the position of Poet Laureate, at that time referred to as the State Poet (reference: Executive Order No 69, 1988). Galway Kinnell was the first State Poet named for a term of 4 years as a result of this order. Since then Louise Gl├╝ck, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and Grace Paley have also held the position. Ruth Stone is the current Poet Laureate and her term will end upon the installation of Sydney Lea in November 2011. At Stone's investiture in 2007, Governor Douglas returned the designation back to Poet Laureate.

CRITERIA:

The Vermont Poet Laureate is a person:

  • who is a resident of Vermont; (Vermont being his/her primary residence)
  • whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence;
  • who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work;
  • who has a long association with Vermont.
  • who agrees to participate from time to time in official ceremonies and readings at the Vermont State House and other locations.

The poet selected shall receive an honorarium of $1000 provided by the Vermont Arts Council.

Since 1964, the Vermont Arts Council has been the state's primary provider of funding, advocacy and information for the arts in Vermont. It strives to increase public awareness of the positive role artists and arts organizations play in communities and to increase opportunities for Vermonters to experience the arts in everyday life. The Council is the only designated State Arts Agency in the U.S. that is also an independent, not-for-profit, membership organization. For more information on the programs and services of the Vermont Arts Council, visit www.vermontartscouncil.org.