The Common Council unanimously chose Michael Peterson as New Britain’s first Poet Laureate at its meeting Wednesday night.
New Britain’s Poet Laureate will promote awareness of poetry in New Britain by being present at events in and around the City as an official representative of the City and represent New Britain at State events. The Laureate will engage with the local literary community in an official capacity, establish relationships with schools and students ranging from elementary school to college, mentor emerging poets and, in general, cultivate poetry within the city.
The position is unpaid.
“He was selected not because he is a hometown hero, but because he is a great poet,” said Stephen Hard of the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance. “The process he went through was very vigorous.”
Ald. Don Naples said, “It has been a long process, but it shows great promise for value for the City and all its residents.”
Peterson said that through the whole process he wondered what a poet laureate should look like.
“It shouldn’t matter what I wear. It matters what is in my heart and brains and what I am saying,” said Peterson. “I was born and raised and will probably die here. New Britain isn’t just what’s on the outside. It is inside here (in my heart). Real genuine Hurricane pride resides here.”
“He is truly deserving,” said Ald. David DeFronzo. “He is a phenomenal poet and a better person.”
Peterson’s accomplishments include being a three-time Enchanted Garden Grand Slam Champion, a University of Connecticut Grand Slam Champion, and a two-time St. Joseph’s College “Love Jones” Champion, along with performances at schools, theaters, and other venues across Connecticut and New England.
Peterson also works at the high school and is a coach.
“I work with him almost everyday. To see him in action with the students is really neat,” said Ald. Robert Smedley. “When students see him on stage their jaws drop.”
Peterson said poetry has taken him all across the world, but he always comes back to his home.
“There once was a man from New Britain who was strong and tough and hard hittin’. They scratch and they bite, they sneak up at night and I seriously have a fear of kittens,” he told the council. “Poetry can’t be predicted. I hope poetry can open your mind and your heart and welcome it to open your ears. I write because I desire to change the world or at least inspire the person that does.”