Diannely Antigua named 13th Portsmouth poet laureate, vows to ‘uplift marginalized voices’
Antigua was introduced at the City Council meeting at its Monday, May 2 meeting. Mike Nelson, chairman of the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program board of directors, made the introduction.
“She lives in Portsmouth and has been a fixture at all the readings in town where she has shown again and again that not only is she a great poet, but she also has an amazingly warm, friendly and enthusiastic personality, and all these qualities are the makings of a great poet laureate.”
“I am humbled by this opportunity to be Portsmouth poet laureate. Since moving to Portsmouth in 2020, I have been welcomed and embraced as if I had been living here all along. It is a great privilege to serve this community and bring poetry to its people,” Antigua said. “As not only the youngest, but also the first person of color who has received this honor, it is my mission to uplift marginalized voices and identities.”
A Dominican American poet and educator, Antigua was born and raised in Massachusetts. Her debut poetry collection “Ugly Music” won the Pamet River Prize and a 2020 Whiting Award. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where she won the Jack Kerouac Creative Writing Scholarship. She received her master’s degree in fine arts at New York University, where she was awarded a Global Research Initiative Fellowship to Florence, Italy. To learn more about her work, visit diannelyantigua.com
“We are so grateful she has accepted her nomination for this post,” Nelson said of Antigua. “And we can’t wait to get to work with her on her projects and continue this now 25-year tradition with the PPLP of building community with poetry and beyond.”
Since 1997, the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program has chosen the city’s poet laureate for a two-year term, however, Truax actually served three years because of delays in her projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the ceremony, Nelson said of Truax’s service during the pandemic, “She was doing more than building community, she was building hope.”
“COVID curdled all my original plans repeatedly,” Truax said. “But COVID also gave something to my tenure that was not a part of the plan.”
“It was wonderful to hear from artists who wanted to collaborate with me after reading one of the poems,” she said, adding later. “Most gratifying of all was hearing from people that the poems helped.” She told the story of one woman who wrote about how her haiku about getting through a dark night helped this woman get though a dark week.
“So many serendipitous surprises, so many,” she said. “Perhaps, just perhaps, you can imagine my great surprise when Fox News had something nice to say about me.”
“But I shouldn’t have been surprised for that is what poetry can do. It can build bridges. It can heal hurts. It can calm tempers. It can cross stormy oceans even when those stars can’t be seen to guide us,” Truax said. “While I didn’t get to do everything I set out to do the past three years, we did a lot, and I thank you all for your support of me, my projects and the PPLP as we rode out that storm together.”