Selection Panel Names Two Prince William Poets Laureate

The Crowning of Prince William's Poets Laureates Zan Hailey and Robert Scott.

For the next two years, Dr. Robert Scott of Haymarket, a novelist, poet and English teacher at Osbourn Park High School, and Alexandra “Zan” Hailey of Manassas, an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University, will share the position of Prince William Poet Laureate.

The announcement aired live by Guy Lambert of WPGC 95.5  Saturday afternoon at the culmination of the “Poetry & Jazz on the Lake” event, which was held at Tackett’s Mill Lakeside in Lake Ridge, Virginia.

According to the 11-member selection panel, both candidates simply blew them away with their individual creative strengths.

For Dr. Scott, it was the project he proposed: using a website, a series of community seminars and a great deal of pavement pounding. Scott plans to encourage budding and seasoned Prince William poets to submit poems for inclusion into a permanent “10,000 poem exhibit.”

When Scott accepted his laureate crown, he was his usual modest self.

“Zan’s a genius,” Scott said. “I can be the chauffer poet laureate.”

June Forte with Zan Hailey and Robert Scott as they are announced live on air by Guy Lambert as Prince William County's Poets Laureate.

Rob Scott, as he is known in the literary world, is a published novelist, and the author of the “Eldarn” fantasy and Sailor Doyle Mystery series. As an educator for Prince William County Schools, he served as former principal of Brentsville District High School, and continues to teach while also pursuing his career as a fiction writer.

Scott also began to present his funny, irreverent poetry at various local and school sanctioned coffee houses over the last few years. One such poem begins, “Someone call a poet.” Scott is known for his charismatic presentation style that can put any audience at ease, and his willingness to share his literary success by mentoring to other writers in the community.

For Zan Hailey, it was the power of her submitted poems, such as “Around the Yellow House,” that swayed the selection panel.

Though still a college student, Hailey has already published her work, garnered an award, mentored young writers through the Northern Virginia Writing Project and even created an on-line collection of poetry from all over, using Band-Aids® as a prompt. She is a graduate of the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, Woodbridge Senior High School.

For her community project, she is very interested in encouraging new writers to use writing to inspire visual art and visual art to inspire writing. Hailey plans to start with letters written by Van Gogh that she was introduced to during a religion studies class. From there, she hopes to progress the project so that new writers are painting, drawing, sculpting and writing again.

Writer Linda Jonston with friends listens to the poets perform at the Poetry & Jazz event.

When the panel realized they really wanted both Scott and Hailey, they first considered naming Hailey as the county’s young poet laureate. However, the panelists soon realized that would not quite be fair, since they believed Hailey’s work stood out above all nominees, regardless of age.

“The panel couldn’t find anything wrong with [Zan Hailey’s] poetry,” said June Forte, who headed the Poet Laureate project. “Her poetry’s too good [for her not to be named Poet Laureate outright]. She deserves it.”

Forte also thought it was ideal to include all the other poets in a Poets Laureate Circle, where they can take part in community events and functions.

“All of the projects were really, really good,” she said.

Selection panelist Eric Pankey, who is a published poet and professor of English and Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University, said the selection of Hailey and Scott, “speaks highly of the quality of education offered in Prince William County Public Schools.”

Pankey served on the selection panel along with poets Alirio Aleman and LeeAnn Thomas; business leaders Carlos Castro, Marie Khalili Nasiri and Mark Shaaber; teachers Alice Mergler and Cathy Hailey; library system director Dr. Constance Gilman; Sergeant Major Michael Mack,;Wounded Warrior Regiment, Marine Corps Base Quantico; and high school student Lindsey Barszcz.

Student at Woodbridge Senior High School is inducted into the Poet Laureate Circle.

In fact, seven of the 14 poet laureate nominees are current or past teachers or students in the Prince William County Public School system. The 12 other poets will now form a Prince William Poet Laureate Circle to assist in joint community poetry projects. They are:

1.      Phebe Ciemny, Woodbridge: student, Center for the Fine and Performing Arts Woodbridge Senior High School

2.      Joe De Cesare, Woodbridge: marketing assistant, Fort Belvoir Federal Credit Union and stagehand, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Manassas.

3.      Brittany Crow, Woodbridge: student, Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, Woodbridge Senior High School

4.      Melody Lane Ashtara De Furia, Manassas: Northern Virginia Community College, Woodbridge Campus Business Office

5.      John Dutton, Woodbridge: Language Arts teacher, Beville Middle School

6.      Paulette Garner, Manassas: Language Arts teacher, Parkside Middle School

Katherine Goddhardt reads from her poetry book.

7.      Katherine Gotthardt, Bristow: author, editor, blog and website developer

8.      Neil Hailey, Manassas: student, Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, Woodbridge Senior High School

9.    Bennie Herron, Manassas: educator

10.  Dora Muhammad, Woodbridge: author, editor and performer

11.  Renee Ordoobadi, Bristow: student, Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, Woodbridge Senior High School

12.  Heather Stevens, Manassas: author, artist and performer

As Prince William Poet Laureates, Scott and Hailey each will receive an annual honorarium of $500 from The Clearbrook Foundation, a non-profit soon to be taking space at the Tackett’s Mill Center.

Each will participate in selected public gatherings in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. In their first joint decision, the laureates invited WSHS student Lindsey Barszcz, who served on the selection panel, to join the Prince William Poet Laureate Circle.

For continuing information on the Prince William Poet Laureate program, visit the Prince William County Arts Council website at and click on “literary arts.”

Around the Yellow House

Bernie Herron delivers his poem in spoken word style with assistance from his daughter.

By Zan Hailey

The train passes—a heavy

heart—beating down the tracks.

A U-turning rickety pick-up,

matte black finish—brings dogs

to a bark across the block.

Afternoon planes fly—streaking contrails

that connect cumulonimbus clouds.

And a letter from an uncensored inmate

was left in my mailbox while I was out

Attendees look at local author's books available through Write by the Rails.

walking a fuchsia petaled path,

where wild Dogwoods fade pink

with the gold of magnolias,

leaving a perfume alley trail.

A squirrel bats its tail like a duster

on a bookshelf—take in the day.

Open it slow—pocketknife blade

soundly tearing a slit—“Dear Wonderful.”

©2014 Zan Hailey

Article by Cindy Brookshire & Stacy Shaw

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

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