by Nan Byrne, MVPL Committee | March 17, 2017 

West Tisbury, MA - Justen Ahren of West Tisbury has been selected as the 2017-2019 Poet Laureate of Martha’s Vineyard. Justen was one of ten local poets nominated for the honorary position by Martha's Vineyard art and poetry organizations. “It was a very difficult decision since the pool of candidates was so talented and highly respected,” said Ann Smith, Executive Director of Featherstone, a selection committee member.

Justen was the Poet Laureate of West Tisbury from 2012 to 2015. He has been Founder and Director of Noepe Center for Literary Arts since 2008 as well as a Co-Director and Founder of Featherstone Summer Festival of Poetry since 2007. Justen is internationally involved in writing workshops; he founded the Italy Writing Workshop in Orvieto Italy in 2012 and facilitated a poetry and creative writing workshop at the San Miguel Mexico Literary Festival in February of this year after being a festival participant since 2009. With publications in many literary journals, on the web, and poetry readings on the island, Justen’s strong background and presence in the poetry community prepares him well to be our Poet Laureate for 2017-2019. 

The Poet Laureate is an island wide advocacy position responsible for promoting the art of poetry on Martha's Vineyard. Each Poet Laureate serves a two-year term and is chosen by a diverse selection committee of islanders from nominations submitted by art and poetry organizations. The Poet Laureate is responsible for writing and presenting a minimum of one talk, lecture, or symposium on poetry each year, and will also provide assistance in the direction of activities for National Poetry Month in April.

Justen Ahren will be the third Poet Laureate of Martha's Vineyard. Previous Poet Laureates have been Arnie Reisman (2014 - 2017) and Lee McCormack (2012- 2014) both of whom have been passionate promoters of poetry on Martha's Vineyard. During his tenure, Poet Laureate, Arnie Reisman of Vineyard Haven launched the popular Poetry Cafe at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse in Vineyard Haven that introduced a monthly line up of Martha's Vineyard poets to new audiences. Lee McCormack, an Oak Bluffs resident increased awareness of poetry through readings and workshops at schools, senior centers, libraries, and public events.

To celebrate the announcement of the new Poet Laureate a reception will be held on Sunday, April 30, 2017, from 2-3 PM at the West Tisbury Public Library. The reception is free and open to the public, with music by Andy Herr.  Refreshments will be provided.