Christine Kitano, associate professor in the Department of Writing, was named the poet laureate of Tompkins County on January 19, 2021. She is the tenth poet to serve in this two-year position, which involves a number of poetic responsibilities, including reading and writing poems for certain community events. The position also allows poets to educate members of the community about poetry.
In an interview about her appointment, Kitano told The Ithacan that she views the position as a community one and that she is excited for the opportunity to expose more people to poetry. She has published two collections of poetry, Birds of Paradise and Sky Country, and is also a professor for the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. In her work at Ithaca College, she teaches courses that focus on poetry and Asian American Literature for both the English and Writing departments.
“One of the roles of the poet laureate is to take poetry off the shelf,” Kitano said to WRFI in a radio interview. “I know that poetry can often seem inaccessible … but I hope that, as poet laureate, I can remind people that poetry is not this foreign thing, but it’s something that can be part of our everyday lives.”
When asked about Kitano’s appointment, Amanda Champion, Tompkins County Legislator, said “we’re delighted to welcome Dr. Kitano in this role and look forward to a year of poignant [poems] that will capture the moment and inspire us all.”
Kitano, who recently earned tenure, is not the first professor in our department to be named poet laureate of Tompkins County. Professor Katharyn Howd Machan was the first person to serve in the position in 2001. Paul Hamill, who was a professor and the director of Grants and Sponsored Programs, and Melissa Tuckey, former lecturer, were named poet laureate in 2007 and 2019, respectively.
Read more about Kitano’s appointment here.