For her works in the creative industry, the education and training of young poets and writers, and her many other contributions towards improving the industry in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, which operates under the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, has named Dasha Kelly Hamilton as the 2021-2022 Wisconsin Poet Laureate.
Hamilton makes history as the first Black woman to hold the title of Wisconsin Poet Laureate in the 20 years since the award was instituted, TMJ4 reports. She will hold the title for a period of two years with a $2,500 stipend and a week-long residency at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in Mineral Point.
The main objective for the titleholder is to serve as state ambassador who encourages poetry throughout their tenure. A commemorative broadside and other recognition opportunities come with being the Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, including organizing and attending literary events each year.
The Milwaukee native is the ninth Wisconsin Poet Laureate, taking over from Margaret “Peggy” Rozga, the eighth Wisconsin Poet Laureate. From the inception of the award, the tenure for each Poet Laureate was four years. In 2008, it became two years after the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters took over the scheme.
Nick Demske, Chair of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, spoke about Hamilton’s appointment.
“Dasha Kelly Hamilton’s infectious energy and demonstrated history of transforming lives through the written and spoken word make her the perfect ambassador for poetry in the state of Wisconsin. Her reputation precedes her, and we know that Wisconsin residents will benefit in many ways from this outstanding poet.”
Hamilton is a poet, performer, novelist who was named artist of the year in 2016 by the Milwaukee Arts Board. She has also been part of the arts envoy for the US Embassy that teaches, performs, and facilitates community-building initiatives with people from different backgrounds under the umbrella of the creative arts. She has been working on cultural exchange programs in Mauritius, Toronto, Botswana, and Beirut.
Not only is she the Poet Laureate for Wisconsin, but Hamilton was also made the Poet Laureate for Milwaukee getting to the end of 2019. This makes her the second person to ever hold both positions after Marilyn L. Taylor.
Speaking of her appointment, Hamilton said, “My practice as a writer and cultural organizer connects me to a spectrum of conversations and communities. For twenty years, I’ve invited folks to lean into the experience of creating and sharing poems as entry points for reflection, for discovery, for celebrating truth.
Her nonprofit, Still Waters Collective, introduced literary arts programming for 20 years, building platforms for many otherwise unheard voices to be honored and heard. The work she does through her organization allows for partnerships on projects and manages a creative leadership fellowship.
“I’ve seen communities built and individuals fortified through poems and spoken word. I’m honored to continue building community across the state as Wisconsin Poet Laureate, and look forward to establishing a poetry exchange between traditional residents and writer residents in Wisconsin prisons,” she added.
Hamilton holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and an MA in Marketing Communications from Roosevelt University and has been an assistant professor at Mount Mary University, Alverno College, Bryant & Stratton, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.