Athens’ Kari Gunter-Seymour Named Ohio Poet Laureate

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Appalachia’s own poet Kari Gunter-Seymour was named Ohio’s third poet laureate by Governor Mike DeWine earlier this month, with her term beginning June 10. Gunter-Seymour served as Athens, OH’s poet laureate for two consecutive years directly before being appointed as the state’s poet laureate.

This honor for the region comes in the midst of a global pandemic and an international outcry against racist police brutality, and Gunter-Seymour is ready to use her strengths with the written word to help all Ohioans feel more heard. Although the pandemic does greatly complicate any chance of Gunter-Seymour working with Ohio’s writers in person within the year, she does hope that changes with the coming of 2021.

“I’m so grateful to my community here in Athens County, so many of whom urged me to apply for this position,” she said to WOUB in an interview shortly after being named the state’s third poet laureate. “I have to tell you, in all honesty, I didn’t really want to do it because I felt kind of uncomfortable about it. But then I realized I had challenged all of my co-poets and singer songwriters and authors here in this area to do things they weren’t comfortable with: like standing up and reading in front of people or singing in front of people which I kept insisting they do and that they submit their work to places! I was bossy in that respect in sort of encouraging that. I realized as people throughout the state were contacting me and suggesting that I apply to this position that, you know, it was — this will sound so corny — it was kind of my duty to at least apply. And, as it turned out I didn’t even have to, because several people applied for me — which was just beautiful and wonderful and that gave me courage. Of course I never believed I would be selected, this is just astounding, I really want to thank my community.”

Gunter-Seymour is especially interested in utilizing her position to help those who are struggling with addiction, with the opioid epidemic taking massive tolls on Ohio and surrounding states over the past several years.

Keep up to date with what Gunter-Seymour is doing by following her on social media and checking out her website.