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Art Council Names New Prince William Poet Laureate

Kathy Smaltz is crowned Prince William County's Poet Laureate for 2016-18.

Kathy Smaltz is crowned Prince William County’s Poet Laureate for 2016-18.

The Prince William County Arts Council has named Kathy Smaltz of Nokesville Prince William Poet Laureate for 2016-18.

Smaltz received the honor at “SummerFest” a community event, held Saturday, at Tackett’s Mill in Lake Ridge.

The “SummerFest” event was co-sponsored by The Prince William Arts Council and the Clearbrook Foundation.

Tacketts Mill Center and many of its shops took part in the event.

The job of the Prince William Poet Laureate is to bring poetry and writing to the community through providing encouragement for rising poets and opportunities for community members to create and celebrate poetry.

Smaltz is a Prince William educator who teaches language arts at The Nokesville School. She has a M.F.A. in Fiction from George Mason University and earned her B.A. from William and Mary.

She is a member of Write by the Rails, The Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, and has taught summer sessions for the Northern Virginia Writing Project.

Smaltz reads her poetry aloud to the crowd at Tackett's Mill.

Kathy Smaltz reads her poetry aloud to the crowd at Tackett’s Mill.

Smaltz will replace former Poets Laureates, Dr. Robert Scott, a.k.a. author “Rob Scott” and Alexandra “Zan” Hailey, who were selected to share the honor in 2014.

Representatives from the panel, which included a diverse group of Prince William residents, artists, educators and business professionals, say they had many great people to choose from, but were ultimately happy with their choice.

“When the selection panel gets together, we have no idea who the person is,” said panel member Bryanna Altman. “Clearly, we made an excellent choice with Kathy. She is going to be a fantastic poet laureate for Prince William County.”

One important factor in selecting a laureate is the applicant’s proposed community service project. Smaltz’s project involves workshops in which she hopes to use poetry as a way empower citizens.

“I plan on doing poetry workshops across the county, starting with the schools, but also working with people who might not have had that much exposure to poetry, including going to nursing homes, prisons, especially working with women and juveniles,” Smaltz said.

She hopes to teach professionals in various fields how to incorporate poetry into their work so that the project extends beyond her two-year term.

 June Forte Zan Hailey and Robert Scott as they are announced as Prince William County's Poets Laureate.

June Forte (left) with Guy Lamber (right), Zan Hailey and Robert Scott as they are announced as Prince William County’s Poets Laureate, 2014.

Zan Hailey said she is happy that the Poet Laureate tradition will be continuing in Prince William.

She said she enjoyed holding writing workshops and panels and said her most memorable experience was working with North Virginia Community College writing students who were excited to put poetry into action.

Even though Hailey’s and Scott’s time terms have ended, they hope to continue serving the community.

Scott plans to continue his project of collecting 10,000 poems written by Prince William residents. He encourages current or former residents to submit their poetry.

The “Poetry and Jazz” festival included live music from Jahnel Daliya; poetic readings by Prince William Poet Laureate Kathy Smaltz, Prince William Poet Laureate Emerita Zan Hailey and nominee John Dutton; comedy performed by “Fools Improv,” a Gainesville improv group; beer garden by Growling Beer Brewing Company and tap room; various vendors; and a children’s bounce house.

Smoothie King and Vocelli’s Pizza sold food. Edgemoor Art Studios, Statements the Salon, Pet Value and Massage Envy participated.

Nancy Kyme, who organized the Poetry and Jazz event, congratulates Kathy Smaltz.

Nancy Kyme, organizer the SummerFest event, congratulates Kathy Smaltz.

Nancy Kyme of the Clearbrook Foundation organized the event. Guy Lambert of CBS radio served as M.C.

Before being crowned Prince William Poet Laureate, Smaltz read a humorous  yet poignant poem about a trip to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Smaltz thanked her friends and family for their support and her mother and grandmother for inspiring her through their artistic pursuits and encouragement. She said she hopes her time as poet laureate will help others discover the power of writing.

Dutton read several humorous poems about his experiences as a Prince William educator, a writer and a member of a local writing group.

He invited lovers of poetry and the spoken word to attend his Spilled Ink events held every fourth Friday of the month at Jirani Coffee House in Old Town Manassas.

This is the first time that the Prince William Arts Council and the Clearbrook Foundation have sponsored and organized the Poet Laureate selection and announcement event. This is only the second time Prince William County has appointed a Poet or Poets Laureate.

Kathy Smaltz with friend and fellow nominee for Prince William Poet Laureate, John Dutton.

Kathy Smaltz with friend and fellow nominee for Prince William Poet Laureate, John Dutton.

Smaltz has written for Bristow Beat in the past, and was the author of the Virginia Press Association award-winning weekly column “Busy in Bristow.”

Correction: “Poetry & Jazz,” as previously published, was the poetry festival’s former name. 

© 2016, Stacy Shaw. All rights reserved.

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