Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a man of many letters – he’s a playwright, an accomplished journalist, an essayist and most recently, pending expected City Council approval, Santa Fe’s new poet laureate.
Wellington was kind enough to free up some time to chat all things poetic with KSFR’s Dennis Carroll.
What do you see is the major role and responsibilities of a city's poet laureate, specifically Santa Fe?
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: There's not a whole lot of responsibilities, but you do need some sort of project. And my general idea was, as well as primarily though, what you do is you simply encourage people to write and learn about poetry. More specifically, I was going to attempt to use poetry to address issues of historical trauma, and to encourage people to write about their feelings about that use very broadly, meaning cultural, racial, sexual, environmental trauma, however you interpret that.
How would you describe the nature of your poetry?
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: The nature of my poetry, which I hope people see when the book comes out, is very eclectic, and that I have several different... Do I write political poems? A lot of African American writers are associated with political poems? Yes. But, not all the time. Do I write spoken word poems? Yes. But not all the time. Do I write literary poems and verse forms? Yes. But not all the time. So I'm a bit unusual, in that it varies quite a bit. And I mean, I suppose the through way is by personality, you know, hopefully,, you have to judge for yourself. But a part of that is a reflection of something I like in poetry, which I think it means more of and that's broad-mindedness. I think it is a limitation to be exclusive, so much, very up to your neck in one style, and one is that we live in a very varied world, and in it at your best, that encourages you toward a varied and multicultural aesthetic.
The role of poetry in this country is not as strong perhaps as it is, in some countries where poets end up becoming presidents of the country. What should be the role of poetry in the United States?
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: That's a big question. What should be the role of poetry? I'm not sure poetry we should think of as having a role so much as potentially being a social phenomenon. In some ways, it is now with the vast spoken word. You even have poets on Twitter, poets on Instagram... So much poetry is institutionalized, and is associated with teaching. And yet there is the feeling still somehow that is that release of fusing through all society as much as it could. Now why that is? I'm not so sure. Well, we've a lot of distractions, I'm sure. But ideally, it would have a role because you see, every point is different from every person. I mean, maybe you want to write this down, maybe you want to write in that style, the only role is to express yourself. It's a bit like thinking we live in a society where few people play a musical instrument. But what if everyone played a musical instrument? You'd have a lot of different types of music, and a lot of different versions of music. But you would have people who felt that music was a way to express themselves and a whole new language. In some ways, that's what poetry is. It's a more personal language. And most people who do turn to it, what they're really looking for is a way to take their mundane life into find something more sublime, whatever that means to them.
Or, perhaps, during times of crisis... It's a way to cope, maybe?
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: And what poetry can do is to find a way to take your crisis that are transitory whether they are major, minor, or they're never minor to you… But that are transitory that won't be around forever, and no way you won't be around forever and in to make them into something more and something that appears to you that has meaning.
What kinds of things will you be doing as a poet laureate? Will you be going to schools?
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: Well, like I say, they give you a lot of room because a lot of what you're doing is almost a little hokey as the sound is representing the poet's art, which no one can really do. But it's the idea. That's nice. But specifically, what I'll be doing is a lot of readings. As many as I can. And to a great extent, the answer to that question also depends on who invites me to read. I'm very easily able to be contacted through the city, and I'll go any place that invites me, at no expense to you. And I also teach a workshop.
So very specifically, and I'll also be doing reading with other poets, hopefully to bring attention to them and a workshop where I hope to teach adult poets... Like a four or five section session workshop if you're in the Santa Fe area. And that's it. And if you're interested, be in touch with the city.
In the big vision, what would you say is the most important role of a poet laureate?
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: Oh, well, we would just dispense with newspapers and everyone would write community poems! I'm being a little facetious, of course. Of course. Well, first of all, curiously enough, in Santa Fe, there are a lot of writers and there are probably a lot of writers everywhere. But in Santa Fe, particularly there are a lot of published writers. There are a lot of people with very strong credentials in the arts, the visual arts, yes, but also in poetry. And I never have quite felt that the city somehow made as much use of that, as they could, with all this literary talent here. Now what specifically how can I change that in my role of laureate? Well, I'm one person. I'm that sure. Bit speculating, but Santa Fe in terms of the literary art is an unusually sophisticated place.