Danielle Legros Georges: Inspiring New Poet Laureate for Boston

by Jacquelyn Malone

When Lesley University announced that one of its faculty members was now Boston’s Poet Laureate, a former student of Danielle Legros Georges’s was ecstatic. In the comment section of the posting she wrote: “You are amazing Danielle! I am so happy you were my first professor at Lesley. Congratulations on all of your achievements. Your work has inspired me. :)”

Danielle, who was selected by a distinguished search committee from a wide range of talented applicants, hopes to bring that kind of enthusiasm to poetry in Boston. She says, “The city’s Poet Laureate is tasked with raising the status of poetry in the everyday consciousness of Bostonians, acting as an advocate for poetry, language and the arts, and creating a unique artistic legacy through public readings and civic events.”

In her teaching capacity at Lesley she has already begun, class by class, to rouse an understanding of the value of poetry. "The majority of the students I work with are practicing teachers seeking a broader understanding of how to enhance instructional practices in their areas of concentration," she explains. In exploring various art forms, especially poetry and writing, she probes ways to create critical thinkers and thoughtful individuals. “The arts create powerful pathways that allow us to reach all kinds of learners," she believes.

Danielle was born in Haiti but grew up in Boston's Haitian community in Mattapan. She has been teaching in Lesley University's Creative Arts in Learning Division since 2001. Her recent literary awards include the 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry, the 2012 Massachusetts Cultural Council Finalist in Poetry, Lesley University Faculty Development Grants, and a 2013 Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship/Andrew W. Mellon Grant.

She’s quoted on the website as saying, “America is best when it recognizes its inherent plurality. Americans are best when, embracing plurality, we move toward and seek to understand those around us. Americans are best when we are engaged and dialogic . . . . It allows us to see that, though different in many ways, de Crèvecoeur, Wheatley, and Lazarus, were each immigrants or the daughter of immigrants. They were bicultural, and bilingual, if not speakers of several languages.”

Danielle strongly believes being poet laureate is a “wonderful opportunity . . .  to connect with Bostonians, from young people in Boston Public Schools to elders in the senior community.”

Here is a poem she delivered when Mayor Marty Walsh introduced her as Boston’s new poet laureate. (You can also hear her recite the poem on YouTube.):

Praisesong for Boston 

Begin with the Massachusett, setting nets in the harbor
Of Boston, before it was Boston harbor—Quonehassit,
Place of clear water, and arrive at my door.  I, immigrant

Like so many settlers nestled in your arms, write this poem
To you Boston.  If I write Trimount it is for your hills,
Some still standing, others razed, the land changed, as lands are,

As time passes, and yet history is yours, Boston, the good and bad of it,
The inarticulated and the often-stated:  A Puritan’s beacon, Wheatley’s
Pen, Winthrop’s city upon a hill, Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured

Citizens of the world, the vision and grandeur that are Gardner’s,
The words lost to the grey and blue Atlantic.  If I place an emerald
Necklace at your feet, it is to match the medallions of your ever-turning

Wheels:  bicycles and school-buses, the railroads and helms of trade
And fate, of fire and grit, of determination’s grip, of cod and beans,
And the great house of science, and the great house of knowledge,

And the great house of art.  International since the day you were born,
If cities are born.  And if you are grown, then out of everything you
Have grown:  a revolution’s spark, the arc of a wide bridge,

Cable-stayed, lit electric, wharves and new waves,
And the complicated notions of freedom and forward,
And the ease of summer days and sturdy neighbors:

Chris, young terror of Sumner Street; Alana eating a pear,
Already in third grade; John, but call him Mac; Santiago
Who yells louder than God; and Wendy who yells louder;

And Wayne, uncle to all, from his big yellow house greeting
Each newcomer to the neighborhood.