National Poetry Month ends with the announcement of “Gateway: Gulfport Poets,” featuring the work of 12 hometown poets, edited by Gulfport Poet Laureate Peter Hargitai.
Hargitai, a retired professor of English, who lectured at Miami University and Florida International, became Gulfport’s first poet laureate in 2015, chosen from a field of 19 candidates by the Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Public Library. They chose him again after a blind reading, this time for a three-year term after a rule change that allowed poets laureate more time to achieve their goals. While his tenure has ended, his plans for the book have been in place for some time.
“This book has been a longtime dream of mine,” says Hargitai, who wrote the forward to “Gateway,” but did not include his own poetry in the volume. “COVID-19 made me prioritize and put aside my own work in order to get it done.”
Hargitai invited local poets to submit their previously unpublished work; each contributed multiple poems to the 200-page collection and include: Vincent Spina, Stone Handy, Molly Ellowis, Michael Fridovich, Jude Bagatti, Nadine Miller, Rob McCabe, Michael Arthur Taylor, Ellen Noto, Sam Henderson, Dianne Marlene Kress and Bob Bates.
The book’s cover features a quintessential Gulfport scene by photographer Larry Busby. Many of the poems included in “Gateway” have a strong Florida theme, but the styles, influences and subjects vary. Hargitai calls the book a rich and diverse poetic terrain.
Henderson, who served as Gulfport Poet Laureate from 2017-2018, contributes seven poems including “Comango Pond”; Spina visits one of Gulfport’s most popular locations in “In Clam Bayou”; Michael Arthur Taylor explores Florida politics in “A Lawton Chiles Eulogy”; Ellen Noto dips into popular culture, dedicating her poem, “Like the Color When Spring is Born” to “Joni M.”
“Gateway: Gulfport Poets” is expected to be published next month. All proceeds will benefit the Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Public Library.