I had the great honor of being guest speaker at the inauguration of Sullivan County’s first poet laureate, Mark Blackford. I first met Mark when he was a student in my 11th grade English class. He was a wild child back then suffering from every adolescent trait teachers find annoying. It became clear that Mark was the way he was because he was smarter than everyone else. I knew that once Mark got out of small-town America and got out of his own way he’d be destined for great things. I had no idea that would be in the field of poetry.
Mark was chosen poet laureate solely on the merit of his work. Not that Mark hasn’t grown into a cool guy. He has. He’s a dad now and has two of the most adorable kids. He’s responsible. When he isn’t writing he is delivering your mail. (Mark subbed one time in Woodstock, and I thought it was the coolest thing to have my mail delivered by a poet). Luckily, he has kept his edge and his sense of humor. But I wanted to make the point that even though Sullivan County is small-town-rural, the poet laureate was not chosen through nepotism. He was chosen by his poetry. This is a great and wonderful thing for Mark, for poetry and for Sullivan County.
As brilliant and talented as Mark is, he cannot succeed on his own. As a community I am calling on everyone to support Mark. Of course, everyone who has any sort of venue, please feature Mark at least once. If you run a radio show, invite Mark on. If you write, please feature him in your newspaper, magazine or blog. Invite him to your arts festivals. Invite him to private parties and give him some time to read. If you are a teacher, at any level, invite Mark into your classroom. You don’t have to live in Sullivan County to support Mark and his poetry. When Mark succeeds, poetry succeeds, and we all know the world needs more poetry.
You may contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org