Poet Laureate | St. Louis Public Radio

Poet Laureate

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.

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.”

Cheryl Walker, chairwoman of the poet laureate task force, is a St. Louis native. Her published work includes a poetry chapbook called Silence Isn’t Quiet.
Cheryl Walker

After months of discord over who should be the next poet laureate for St. Louis, the city could select a new voice this fall.

St. Louis has been without an official poet for more than a year after a disagreement between the task force that recommends a poet laureate to the Board of Aldermen and a former member of that group.

Now, a new task force is in place and its members are asking the public to play a role.

File Photo. Alderman Terry Kennedy says the delay in naming a St. Louis poet laureate could stretch into next year.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When members of the Board of Aldermen created St. Louis' poet laureate position, they intended to promote unity. Indeed, inaugural official poet Michael Castro was lauded for building bridges with his words.

But now the post has become a lightning rod for disagreement. 

At issue is whether the task force that recommended Castro's replacement complied with the ordinance that established the position. If not, city aldermen want to know if that invalidates the task force's choice of Jane Ellen Ibur as the city’s next poet laureate.

File photo: St. Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed said it would be unfair to appoint a poet laureate until the controversy is settle.d
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The delay in naming a new St. Louis poet laureate may soon be over.

in December, a poet laureate task force recommended local poet and educator Jane Ellen Ibur. The next step was up the Board of Aldermen, which oversees the position. But a dispute about whether the task force followed regulations has delayed the board’s vote for five months.

Board President Lewis Reed now says he believes Ibur will be offered the position. But first, he wants a board committee to look into the way task force chair Aaron Williams handled its affairs.

Poet Jane Ellen Ibur, seen here in a May 1, 2017 photo, has enjoyed a storied career. For nearly 20 years, she co-produced and co-hosted the local radio show "Poet for the Halibut."
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis poet Jane Ellen Ibur is certainly a character. She's appeared before a class of children wearing a cape and carrying a magic wand. She sometimes wears two pairs of glasses at a time — one for distance, a second for close-up.

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.

New festival aims to bridge gaps separating St. Louis poets

Sep 15, 2015
St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro delivers a poem before the ceremonial swearing-in of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

This weekend poetry becomes a test of whether poets and poetry enthusiasts who follow a certain genre can cross cultural and stylist barriers in their art. The Brick City Poetry Festival is being presented as the first poetry festival of its kind in the St. Louis region. The goal? To bring together academic, spoken-word, young, old, and racially diverse poets in search of “human commonality.”

Michael Castro
Ros Crenshaw

This Saturday, St. Louis’ first Poet Laureate Michael Castro will publicly read his first official poem, commemorating the city’s 250th birthday.The reading will take place at a coronation ceremony from 3-5 p.m. at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.

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.

Janae Wilson and Aaron Williams at the Sept. 19 Board of Aldermen Friday
Provided by Aaron Williams

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted Friday to approve the new position of poet laureate, but even before their approval, nominations were pouring in.

This past Monday, a website was set up for nominating candidates. Within just a few hours, several dozen names were submitted. Many are duplicates with at least one candidate named by 10 different people, according to Aaron Williams, who is set to chair the task force that will select the city’s official poet.

St. Louis Seeking Its First Poet Laureate

Nov 3, 2014
Lewis Reed 2013
Provided by Lewis Reed

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed is spearheading an effort to establish a poet laureate position in St. Louis.

Writers Define Poetry's Role In Today's Society

Nov 3, 2014
Brenda Clarke | via Flickr

Poetry is misunderstood.

“Poetry does have this reputation among the general public as being this highbrow kind of communication that’s only suitable for academic people and people of the intellectual elite, and is not relevant or needed for anybody else,” Missouri poet laureate Bill Trowbridge told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Monday.