Almost 200 years after its foundation as a city, Cincinnati finally named its very first poet laureate.
Pauletta Hansel, a Cincinnati resident since 1979, will fill the position for the next two years.
As poet laureate, Hansel — a graduate of Antioch University, Xavier University and Queens University in North Carolina — is expected to read and compose poetry for special events in Cincinnati and promote the artistic expression of poetry throughout the area.
“Ms. Hansel’s writing is compelling,” Mayor John Cranley said in a press release. “Her poems evoke the type of emotional reaction and convey rich details that leave a lasting impression for the reader.”
The criteria for becoming Cincinnati’s first poet laureate was that “the person must have written poetry that exemplifies the characteristics or spirit of Cincinnati,” according to the application.
Hansel has written five collections of poetry in which she characterizes much of Cincinnati, as well as the greater Appalachian area.
Her poetry has also been featured in “The Writer’s Almanac” and “American Life in Poetry,” and the literary journals “Atlanta Review,” “Talisman,” “Appalachian Journal,” “Appalachian Heritage” and “Still: The Journal.”
Hansel’s most recent publication of poetry, published by Dos Madres Press in 2015, was called “Tangle.”
Her involvement with the local writing community helped her nomination for poet laureate. She leads writing workshops and retreats for writers around the Greater Cincinnati area.
She is the managing editor for the publication of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative, “Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel” and serves as a board member for Dos Madres Press.
Cincinnatians eager to get to know their new poet laureate buy her poetry collections for an in-depth examination of her work. But for anyone on a tight budget who still wants a taste of Hansel’s writing, the city of Cincinnati has provided a short collection of samples of Hansel’s work.
“Home”: This poem was published in “AEQAI Journal” in 2014 and inspired by a writing experience with Over-the-Rhine residents in 2012. It is a touching piece that represents familiar, nostalgic imagery and themes to anyone who grew up in the Midwest, including squash growing in gardens, bacon on the stove in the morning and thick air after a bath. “Home,” she writes near the end of the poem, “is how people / need each other here; / in all of this / we’ve got to find the good / the way we’re glued / the ones who always seem to come / to be that glue; / the heart / we can’t let die.”
“Familial Tremors”: A poem from Hansel’s most recent collection, “Tangle, is an ode to her mother. She writes about the strong woman who would sew her wool coats growing up, the woman who “pinned hems and seams / as we stood (Straight, now!) / on chairs wearing / the cloth cut neat.” The poem loops back to present day as her mother shows Hansel her hands, which now shake with a tremor that will not “steady now for pin or pen.”
“Why We Tell Stories”: In the poem — also published in “Tangle” — Hansel concisely answers the question of why humans feel so drawn to storytelling. She writes, “Because our lives do not / fit neatly into segments— / beginning, middle, end— / we find ways to pretend / there is a place / where things begin / and some conclusion reached / before we start again.”
“Husbands”: This one was published in 2011 “Motif: All the Livelong Day,” and has since been published in three other collections. The poem is a comparative look at Hansel’s mother’s interactions with her own husband, and with Hansel’s husband. It provides an interesting look into the interactions between a mother and husbands — in the general sense.
Hansel will be introduced during a formal ceremony April 15 at the Mercantile Library at 414 Walnut St., 11th floor. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.