She put out a call for poetry submissions and assembled a judging panel to represent the diversity of the Gulfport community. Nineteen candidates submitted three poems each in a bid to become Gulfport’s first poet laureate. The judges selected Peter Hargitai, a poet and translator who recently retired as senior lecturer from the English department of Florida International University.
“I think I speak for all the judges from last year when I say we picked the right person for our first poet laureate. Peter Hargitai embraced the position with enthusiasm and great humor,” says Davis. “In his tenure as Gulfport’s first poet laureate, he became an enjoyable and identifiable high-profile person in the community.”
Hargitai wore many hats as Gulfport’s first poet laureate – some quite literally – including Uncle Sam’s iconic top hat for the Fourth of July parade, a Gatsby cap at the Ink Tank where he gave a mini-lecture on F. Scott Fitzgerald, a professorial square cap for a reading at the Gulfport Senior Center and his Mad Cap at the Blueberry Patch. He read poems at the city’s volunteer luncheon, the Gulfport Casino commemoration as a historic place and, dressed as the Mad Hatter, at the dedication of the Gulfport Public Library’s outdoor reading garden. Hargitai will give his final reading as poet laureate at the Gulfport Library on October 25.
“I feel honored to have been Gulfport’s first poet laureate,” says Hargitai. “But by far the greatest experience was when I met with my fellow Gulfportian poets and was allowed to say a few words about their work before they read from an anthology of their poems. I was impressed by their rich and diverse poetic styles, and followed up with what I had hoped were helpful interior probings into the very heart of their selected poems on my Facebook page. The connection was something ineffable and, even for a poet, difficult to put into words. So, I’ll just steal something from William Wordsworth and say that being our city’s first-ever poet laureate has given me ‘intimations of immortality.’”
The call for submissions for the 2017 Gulfport poet laureate began this week. Any Gulfport resident over the age of 18 may enter. Other requirements include three works of poetry submitted as one attachment and a brief paragraph in the body of the email about the applicant. Only email submissions will be accepted and must include name, Gulfport address, phone number and age. Applicants need not have published any poems prior to entering. For more information, call 941-447-7811. Submissions should be sent to email@example.com by October 21, 2016.
“We are not looking for Peter clones, though,” says Davis. “Each poet laureate will bring his or her own personality, energy and talent to the position. We are excited to discover and promote new talent.”
Five judges, which include Hargitai, will read the submissions without knowledge of the poets’ identities. The winner will be announced at the Gulfport City Council meeting on December 6.