by Arida Wright…….
A few months ago I attended a Black Poetry Celebration hosted by the Key West Poetry Guild and after reading an original piece, they invited me to come to their monthly gathering* at the library and I finally did. Walking through the door I was pleasantly surprised to see my poetry teacher Ms. Flower Conroy who motioned me to sit by her.
Then an announcement came from the podium that Flower was going to be presented with a proclamation from the City on June 6, 2017 for becoming the 2017 Key West Poet Laureate! Amazed, I went to the City Commission meeting and as I listened to all the accolades Flower has achieved (more than I could put in this article), I was completely stunned for I had no idea I had been sitting next to greatness!
When I attended her poetry class in March, she presented more like a rock star instead of a teacher in her eclectic style of dress, her blonde spiked hair, bold lipstick colors and smoky eyes. She told us right up front that she had applied for a grant to publish an anthology of all our work and was waiting to hear back from the Anne McKee Artist Fund committee. She did win.
The ceremony was held at the Garden Hotel on April 21, 2017. The committee also presented her with the Richard Heyman Award in recognition of outstanding literary achievement. Flower, decked out in a black leather mini with 5 inch shinny heels, accepted her awards with such graciousness and humility.
She is from South Amboy, NJ, and was appointed valedictorian of Robert Stockton College where she earned her BA in Literature and Language. In 2013 earned her Master of Fine Arts from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
ME: What does being the 2017 Poet Laureate of Key West mean?
FL: It means the highest honor you can receive as a poet.
ME: How many Poet Laureates has Key West had and how long is your tenure?
FL: Two, I am the third one to receive the title and it is a two year tenure.
ME: How were you chosen?
FL: The Poetry Guild asked its members and friends to nominate someone. I have been going to the Guild since 2007 and have voted for others so the person is selected by their peers. I was shocked!
ME: What are your duties?
FL: My goal is to bring poetry more into the public sphere so that people who don’t know about it will come in contact with it. I am in the process of planning several poetry events at different venues around Key West. I will offer another poetry class later on in the year.
Flower is the author of three chapbooks: Facts About Snakes & Hearts, winner of Heavy Feather Press Chapbook Contest; The Awful Suicidal Swans by Headmistress Press and Escape to Nowhere. Books are available on Amazon.com. Her anthology entitled Writing in the Palm Garden will be published soon featuring local poets, including myself.
One of the things I love about living on this island is that greatness moves among us and I’ve been fortunate enough to sit next to Flower who tucks her greatness underneath her huge unorthodox petals.
I am the Medusa
Oft our own eyes undo us.
cocked in the gutter
I mistook for the horns
of the moon.
Or the opioid fog
I thought was burning sky —
veil of heat lifting off asphalt
after summer rain.
Blueprint or fossil,
you could touch me
not reach me
Like the history of the sea,
all I was was thought.
Stoned out of my brain
on meds, I wracked
for lucent syntax
of what is seen,
Unrestrained, a garden
will revert back
into vegetal hours.
A slithering at the ear.
Instead of the tomatoes
I watered my feet.
Who was I anymore?
by Flower Conroy
2017 Key West Poet Laureate
* The Key West Poetry Guild has been meeting since the 1970s and they are a very welcoming group. You may choose to read or choose to just listen to the poetry. The only rule is that you have to read your original poetry. They meet 7pm every 1st Sunday at the Key West Library at 700 Flemming St. in Key West, FL.