Gwen Nell Westerman of Minnesota State University Mankato Is the New Poet Laureate of the State of Minnesota

Gwen Nell Westerman, a professor of English at Minnesota State University Mankato, is the new poet laureate for the State of Minnesota. Professor Westerman is the first Native American to be Minnesota’s poet laureate.

“It is an honor to serve as the poet laureate and help elevate poetry across the state,” said Professor Westerman, who has taught at Minnesota State, Mankato since 1992. “I am excited for the opportunity to share the beauty of poetry and to engage and celebrate the voices of all Minnesotans.”

“Poetry is song,” Professor Westerman added. “And I remind my students that they know the lyrics to a thousand songs. So, they know a thousand poems, at least. In this role, I think it will be my responsibility to help sing the stories of all the people of Minnesota.”

Professor Westerman has won two Minnesota Book Awards for her work about Dakota people. Her first poetry book Follow the Blackbirds (Michigan State University Press, 2013) was written in English and Dakota. She is also an accomplished quilt artist.

Dr. Gwen Westerman holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Oklahoma State University. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kansas.

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