English Professor David Cope Named Grand Rapids Poet Laureate

Well-deserved kudos to GRCC English Professor David Cope on being named “Grand Rapids Poet Laureate” by the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids this week.  A reception at Egypt Valley Country Club will take place April 19 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Cope’s honor.  More details and the full press release available below the fold…David Cope Named New Poet Laureate

GRAND RAPIDS – The Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, together with members of the former Grand Rapids Area Humanities Council, will be celebrating the continuance of the Grand Rapids Poet Laureate program and inaugurating David Cope as the new laureate at a reception at the Egypt Valley Country Club. The reception will take place April 19 from 5:30-7:30 PM. Members of the press are welcome to attend the reception, which will be sponsored by Grand Rapids law firm Warner, Norcross & Judd, as well as Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter, CPAs.

This year, the Grand Rapids Poet Laureate position will be changing hands in more ways than one. The GR Area Humanities Council, which has administrated the program since its inception in 2003, will be ceasing operation this spring after thirty-five years of serving arts and cultural organizations in the community. Many programs the Humanities Council worked with will stay afloat thanks to the stewardship of local universities and, in the case of the Poet Laureate, the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids.

Talent was clearly a factor in the Humanities Council’s final pick. 2011 Laureate David Cope’s first book, Quiet Lives, included a foreword by the now-iconic Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. His second, On the Bridge, won him the 1988 American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters Award in Literature. Since then, Cope has published plenty more poems and essays and edited various anthologies, as well as continuing his work with Nada Press, which he founded in the 1970s.

But the merit of Poet Laureate candidates has historically been judged by the GR Humanities Council with an additional quality in mind: community leadership. Where did Cope found Nada Press and its flagship publication, poetry journal Big Scream? The same place he first became editor-in-chief of his community college’s literary magazine: Grand Rapids, Michigan. Though Cope later attended the University of Michigan, studying there under poet Robert Hayden, he returned to the city afterwards, promptly winning first prize in the 1971 and 1972 Dyer-Ives Poetry Contest – a program which he now coordinates.

That same spirit of involvement can be traced throughout his career as a professor as well as poet. In 1991, he began teaching at Grand Rapids Community College and found himself working with students on the same literary journal, Display, where he had first gotten his feet wet as an editor. Not content to just work with poetry in the classroom, Cope also organized readings and celebrations showcasing everyone from the aforementioned Ginsberg to the student poets themselves.

Cope, as the freshly-crowned Poet Laureate, is pledged to serve as an ambassador for poetry in the local community over the course of his three year term. The Poet Laureate is expected to foster a spirit of appreciation for the art through events and ongoing projects which engage the public. Previous Poet Laureates have contributed to the community through a variety of programs; for example, Rodney Torreson, the 2007-2010 Laureate, founded the well-known website Through the Third Eye, an online poetry journal for youth. Potential plans proposed by Cope in his application included editing an anthology of exceptional poets from the Grand Rapids area and hosting a conference for talented high school and college age student poets.


Alexandra Fluegel
Marketing Assistant, What’s Your Art GR?
Interim Program Manager
Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids
532 Ottawa Ave, NW
P.O. Box 2265
Grand Rapids, MI 49501
616-459-2787 (phone)
616-459-7160 (fax)
Twitter: @whatsyourartgr , @alexfluegel

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