Two Women Scholars Named Poet Laureates of Their Home States

Maryfrances Wagner, a retired English professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is the new poet laureate of the state of Missouri.

“I have always been a strong advocate for the writing community,” Wagner said. “This role will give me the opportunity to help promote other Missouri writers. It will give me the opportunity to try to reach out there to people less familiar with poetry or even to people who think they don’t like poetry, and hopefully, after the pandemic is over, I’ll be able to do more workshops, readings, and events around the state.”

A native of Independence, Missouri, Wagner earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She taught English for most of her career at both the high school and college levels. In 2002, she became the English coordinator for the High School College Partnership, a dual credit program, at UMKC. She has published nine collections of poetry, including her latest work The Immigrants’ New Camera (Spartan Press, 2018).

Ashley M. Jones is the youngest and first person of color to be named poet laureate of Alabama, a position created 91 years ago.

“Hopefully, as poet laureate, I can shine some light on the work that is being done that is positive and just remind people that the south is still part of the U.S.,” Jones said.

Jones teaches at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She co-directs the PEN American chapter in Birmingham, Alabama, and runs a nonprofit organization called the Magic City Poetry Festival.

Her third and latest poetry collection is  REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press, 2021). Jones earned a master of fine arts degree from Florida International University.

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