Beverly Matherne, professor emerita of English at Northern Michigan University, has been selected as the 2023/2024 U.P. Poet Laureate. The former director of NMU's Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing and poetry editor of Passages North literary magazine is the author of seven poetry books.
“It makes me feel really good," said Matherne in response to the designation in a Mining Journal story. "I can never be a Yooper by birth, but I can be a Yooper by culture. I can be an ambassador for poetry and culture up here."
Matherne lives in Ishpeming, far from Grand Point, her birthplace on the Mississippi near New Orleans. She is inspired by both the wealth of her Cajun and Creole heritage and the natural and cultural bounty of the Upper Peninsula.
The recipient of seven first-place prizes, including the Hackney Literary Award for Poetry, she has done more than 350 poetry readings across the United States, Canada and France, and in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Wales. She holds a doctorate in drama from Saint Louis University and both a master's and bachelor's in English from University of Louisiana at Lafayette. After receiving her doctorate, she did extensive work in French at the University of California, at Berkeley.
As part of her new duties, Matherne will implement her U.P. Poet Laureate project, which will include visits to high school and middle school classrooms throughout the Upper Peninsula, promoting the art of poetry through interactive lessons and writing activities.
Matherne is also available for readings and workshops at art centers and libraries. To schedule an in-person or virtual reading or classroom visit, send a message to the U.P. Poet Laureate Foundation here.
The nonprofit U.P. Poet Laureate Foundation is in its second year. Vice President and NMU alumnus Martin Achatz told The Mining Journal that Matherne's application stood out from several that were worthy of the honor.
“Beverly is so accomplished," Achatz said. "She's read all across the U.P. and across the country and she has done so much internationally. She's the sort of poet that is what a poet quintessentially should be: one who 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.”
Visit the U.P. Poet Laureate website's Coming Events page to learn about upcoming readings, workshops and other events.