Montgomery County Poets Laureate
The Annual Montgomery Poet Laureate Competition is the foundation upon which the MCPL Program was built. The competition is the ultimate expression of the program’s mission; creating an
ever expanding community of poets, supporting their work and providing opportunities for poets to elevate their visibility while also benefiting the community with their service project, many of which continue long beyond their tenure.
How does the competition work?
Each year MCPL recruits a celebrity poet with a national reputation, who along with two additional local Delaware Valley poets, adjudicate the submitted manuscripts.
The newly selected Montgomery County Poet Laureate is honored with an award in the amount of $500 along with a personalized statement about their work, which is shared through MCPL and other local organizations.
The Award is presented during the LitLife event at Rosemont College in Bryn Mawr. The winner will be given an opportunity to read their work and speak to the audience composed of attendees of the day’s event which also features workshops and poetry readings including a Poetry Workshop conducted by the Celebrity Judge of the competition.
Who can compete?
Poets of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to submit their poetry for review and adjudication in the annual competition. Poets must also be residents of Montgomery County. The window for submissions generally opens in early December and closes mid-February with the winner to be announced at the end of March.
The role of the Poet Laureate
The Poet Laureate functions as an ambassador for poetry in Montgomery County from March 31 of the year of his/her naming to April 1st of the following year. This role includes working with MCPL’s Executive Director, Joanne Leva, to develop a schedule of readings, workshops
Appearances may include the Forgotten Voices Poetry Group, Farley’s Bookshop First Thursday Poetry Reading Series, the Philadelphia Poetry Festival and the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. The Poet Laureate is asked to attend LitLife (both the year they are named, as well as the following year to discuss the experience). They may also hold the office of “
Poet Laureate 2018
Megan Gillespie is a poet, actor, educator and mother. Her work has appeared in The Florida Review, New Delta Review, and Cimarron Review. Her honors include fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and Lector Writer’s and Performance Art Residency. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
Megan’s diverse professional background includes roles in teaching, educational leadership, and business. She continues to explore new professional opportunities, and currently works as a writing coach for the Wharton Communication Program, where she prepares students for communication challenges they’ll face as future business leaders, and as an instructor for Books@Work, where she facilitates literature discussions to break down barriers in the workplace. In her spare time she enjoys all things theatre arts, culinary arts, and outdoors. Her son Jonah attends Belmont University in Nashville, and her cat, TJ Maxx, works hard to keep the household lively while Jonah’s away.
“It was very hard to pick a winner this year, but I must say that the poetry of Megan Gillespie bowled me over. She is a storyteller, and her poetry is a braid of life histories, vividly told, laced with glowing concrete detail and image, from “the cheap/ summer frocks that flap in the breeze/ all down 52nd above the sneakers/ and fake watches and Moroccan oils” to how a cheerleader “ascends sideways, creating an arc/ till she’s prone on her side, then lifts her top leg/ slowly, as if to say flying is nothing, really.” This is not poetry that sits on the page: it compels you to read it aloud, and then pulse takes over, the ancient urge to declaim, to tell, to share my world through body and voice and rhythm. Megan’s poetry is both modern and ancient: the wise storyteller holds close her hearers, letting them feel her and her history. Whether the subject is an old janitor, the smell of men, a son’s first encounter with the tooth fairy, or squatting in the summer homes of rich folks, there is compassion, hurt, heart, humor, and meaning in the accomplished, worldly poetry of Megan Gillespie. She and all our fine poets deserve our best congratulations. Long may all of them write!”John Timpane