Upper Peninsula woman named 2023-24 poet laureate
By RANDY CROUCH
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula Poet Laureate Foundation recently announced the selection of Beverly Matherne as the 2023-24 Upper Peninsula poet laureate.
A Louisiana native whohas been a U.P. resident since 1991, Matherne has published several books and has had work published in dozens of respected journals, magazines and reviews. She has received seven first-place prizes, including the Hackney Literary Award for Poetry and is incredibly well traveled, holding more than 350 poetry readings across North America, Europe and the British Isles. She has a new book of work due out in August.
Matherne says her work has many influences, from the mythologies of the muddy Mississippi River, to the clear waters of Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula.
“I am from Louisiana and have a Cajun background that I love to draw from. There are lots of myths and folk tales that I draw from and enjoy working with,” Matherne said. “I’m also so inspired by the natural setting of the U.P. A number of the poems that I’ve written take place in the U.P. and I’m so fascinated by the history, the mining and the various cultures of the peoples who have settled up here.”
While many people may think that the U.P. wouldn’t have much in common with the Deep South, Matherne says that the two regions of the country have much more in common than one would think.
“There are so many parallels between the U.P. and Louisiana,” Matherene said. “In both of these places, people love the outdoors. They love to fish and play on the water. This love for hunting, fishing and the outdoors exists in both places.”
Matherne came to the area more than 30 years ago to take a position at Northern Michigan University, where she taught for years until her retirement and was named professor emerita of English at NMU in 2014-15.
She says that she is honored by the designation bestowed on her.
“It makes me feel really good. I can never be a Yooper by birth, but I can be a Yooper by culture,” Matherne said. “I can be an ambassador for poetry and culture up here.”
The U.P. Poet Laureate Foundation is a nonprofit organization in its second year. The foundation promotes poetry and the spoken word through readings, workshops, as well as virtual and digital mediums. The foundation aims to celebrate the culture, history and heritage of the U.P.
Foundation Vice President Martin Achatz says that selecting a poet laureate for the U.P. is a pretty in-depth process.
“We had an application process for the poets who were interested and the poets who were interested submitted an application that was fairly detailed with work, recordings of readings and a description of a poet laureate project that they wanted to work on,” Achatz said. “A committee of 10 people from across the U.P. did rankings of all of the applicants and came up with a top three. It really was an entire U.P. -wide effort to make this selection, and that is really exciting.”
While there were several applications that were worthy, Achatz said that Matherne really stood out from the pack.
“Beverly is so accomplished. She’s read all across the U.P. and across the country and she has done so much internationally,” Achatz said. “She’s the sort of poet that is what a poet quintessentially should be. Writes poems that dig deep and touch upon the things that people can’t put words to. She is not only a great poet but one of the kindest, nicest, most generous people that we know.”
More information about Matherne can be found on her website at www. http://www.beverlymatherne.com. The U.P. Poet Laureate Foundation can be found online at www. https://uppoetlaureate.org/.