Michael Castro | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Castro

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in April 2015.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Friends, family and admirers will remember St. Louis poet Michael Castro during a memorial service Sunday at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd. 

Castro died Dec. 23 from colon cancer, at the age of 73. He served just over two years as St. Louis’ first poet laureate.

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in 2015.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3:00  p.m., Dec. 28, with "St. Louis on the Air" segment – When Michael Castro spoke in the City Hall Rotunda last month to pass the St. Louis poet laureate torch to his good friend Shirley LeFlore, he beamed.

It was clear that cancer was taking its toll on his body, but his spirit seemed defiantly filled with joy. He smiled big, hugged long and was so thrilled it was as if he was getting installed all over again.

This interview will be on St. Louis on the Air over the noon hour Friday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio executive editor Shula Neuman will lead a discussion in remembrance of longtime poet and professor Michael Castro, who died Sunday at the age of 73.

Joining Neuman for the discussion will be poet and educator Treasure Shields Redmond and poet and essayist Jason Vasser-Elong. Redmond and Vasser-Elong are two of many St. Louis-based writers who loved and admired Castro, who was named the city’s first-ever poet laureate in 2014.

Shirley Bradley LeFlore was installed as St. Louis City’s Poet Laureate in a special ceremony Friday, November 9 in the City Hall Rotunda. She will serve as Poet Laureate until April of 2019, when she is succeeded by Jane Ellen Ibur.
St. Louis American

There was more than a year of back-and-forth about who should succeed St. Louis’ inaugural Poet Laureate Michael Castro. But the moral of this story is the triumph of artist Shirley LeFlore. She was sworn in as Castro’s successor during a civic ceremony on Nov. 9 at City Hall.

“This goes down in St. Louis records – in the history books – so 200 years from now people can look back and see that you were our Poet Laureate,” her daughter Lyah Beth LeFlore told her mother. “Make sure Bella knows,” Shirley LeFlore said in response, speaking of Lyah’s 5-year-old daughter – her youngest grandchild.

Jane Ellen Ibur calls herself a cowgirl. Some of her poetry imagines history from the point of view of the women who were with figures like Tonto and Hopalong Cassidy. She said that women often changed their lives to fit into the roles of wife and mother.
Jane Ellen Ibur

Jane Ellen Ibur’s long wait to be designated as St. Louis’ official poet will soon be over.

A task force first chose Ibur in December 2016 to replace Michael Castro as the city’s poet laureate. But a conflict within the group delayed a vote by the Board of Aldermen. One member, whose term in the group was in dispute, wanted to nominate longtime St. Louis poet Shirley LeFlore.

A committee that began its work this past summer also chose Ibur for the post. Ibur was happy when she got the call Monday from board President Lewis Reed that she will bcome poet laureate in April. LeFlore will serve until then.

“[I was] relieved, surprised, glad the waiting is over,” Ibur said. “I just want to shake it off at this point and move forward.”

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in 2015.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated with information from the Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed's office — The St. Louis poet laureate position is vacant following the resignation of Michael Castro over the city's failure to pick his successor.

Castro, the city's first poet laureate, stepped down Thursday, noting that it was unfair for him to remain in the position when another poet had been named to succeed him.  In December, a committee recommended Jane Ellen Ibur take up the mantle.

But that choice was met with pushback by some members of the public, and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed has not moved forward on the recommendation.

 In this file photo, St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro talks with students at an event presented by the 7th Grade Poetry Foundation.
Adelia Castro

Some in the St. Louis poetry community are upset about a delay in announcing a new poet laureate.

In December 2014, Michael Castro was ushered in with great fanfare as St. Louis’ first official poet. It was a two-year term.

This past December, the head of the task force charged with naming Castro’s successor told poet Jane Ellen Ibur that she’d been selected. But she still doesn't have the job.

St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Bisa Adero and official Poet Laureate Michael Castro met each other awards ceremony on Oct. 14, 2016 at UrbArts.
Vincent Lang

Two official St. Louis poets don’t always agree on what’s appropriate but they do concur on at least one thing: If you want change, you've got to work for it. For this pair, words are the tools.

Alex Heuer, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis has a long and rich literary tradition having produced such noted writers as Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot, Eugene Field and Maya Angelou. On April 26, in honor of National Poetry Month, the St. Louis Poetry Center will celebrate one of St. Louis’ own, Maya Angelou.

Michael Castro
Ros Crenshaw

Updated to include Michael Castro's poetry and interview audio, and reaction from poet Shirley Bradford LeFlore.

Except for dotting the “i’s” and crossing a “t” or two, St. Louis has its first official poet.