Lisa Bickmore — a retired English professor and founder of a nonprofit publishing house — has been named Utah’s new poet laureate.
The Utah Division of Arts & Museums announced the appointment, made by Gov. Spencer Cox, in a news release Wednesday. The poet laureate is designed to be an “advocate for literature and the arts throughout the state,” according to the release.
Bickmore recently retired from her professorship at Salt Lake Community College. Originally from Delaware, she attended Brigham Young University, and is founder of the non-profit Lightscatter Press which “specializes in literary publishing.
Bickmore’s works have been published in a number of publications, such as: “Glass: A Journal of Poetry,” “Tar River Poetry” and “Sugar House Review.” She is the author of three books.
Paisley Rekdal ended her five-year term as Utah’s poet laureate in April. Bickmore’s term also will be for five years.
“I hope to add to, build on, and extend their work, while serving and promoting the lively and wonderful writers of Utah,” Bickmore said in the release.
She noted that she wants to continue the state poetry festival Rekdal launched. Her work was also featured in Rekdal’s Mapping Literary Utah project.
“I hope to create a mobile micro-press, working with writers around the state to create small-edition chapbooks and broadsides of their work, and creating an archive of these publications,” Bickmore said.
Here are some examples of Bickmore’s poetry:
“Loop Trail: Little Ruin Canyon, Hovenweep, September 2016.”
Editor’s note: This 125-word essay was written to mark Utah’s 125 years of statehood, celebrated in 2021.
At the end, the scrub at the rim receded as we descended: to yellow arnica, long-stemmed, to the canyon floor, to branch cottonwoods signaling water somewhere. The houses up high, built of pecked stone, mortared and spall-chinked, even quieter than we’d hoped, just as still, as apart. We recited their modern names to ourselves, our knees and feet begrudging us the miles we’d walked, following the rock line, the intermittent cairns.
“And when we turned our gaze all the way up to the rim, to those dwellings, emptied of any resident but snakes and chattering ravens, we wished to remain there forever at the dry creek, behind and ahead of us, ready for rain: at dusk, we climbed up, out, into the other — our — world.
After following the garden’s rough map
we make our way back down the hill,
trying this time to discern what the low
sprawl of shrub is, with its little pommes,
both green and yellow, and end, finally,
at the shop again, with its garlands
of paper frogs and swallows, and glass eggs
that I want, strung on wire, though the glass would find
a dozen ways to break in my bag:
the basket of brass bells, though, from the desert
in China — a strand of these I know I could
carry, that their low music would please me when
even a hot wind moved the clapper, that I
will think of the day I spent with my son
in the Qionglai range near Four Girls Mountain,
where he showed me a river winding
as if in a picture, wind moving through larches:
and even though I am in this garden
in the vineyards of Sonoma with my
oldest friend, the bell will remind me of
both places: mountains mean earthquakes, she says
of the hills she loves: though any landscape can mean
almost anything: in the valley below,
her son, just older than mine, is buried. In China,
we drove over roads, broken to rubble by the quake
six years prior, to reach the Balang Pass: we posed
for a photograph as if we had climbed there.
In this garden, we walk to the highest point,
which is, as the shop’s docent had pointed out,
not all that high, and there, just as in Sichuan,
are prayer flags, strung on the trunks of trees,
in a figure like a rickety clothesline that could
at a moment collapse in on itself, parasol
threatening to turn inside out, the flags
in all stages of wear and tatter: we turn
to look into the valley, and beyond it,
Sonoma Mountain, its slow rise from an ancient
seabed singing in thin air, its twisted backbone
a bronze chime underwritten by fire.
From “A Plague Record”
I propose to cut, sew, and wear a coat made of a felt I press from the gathered dust of this house.
I propose to collect, in a vial, water condensed from each day’s sky, from now until the day and night again balance on a point.
I propose to sing only arias composed in the unheard registers, as, for instance, those that measure the breath moving into and out of the lungs.
I propose to write one hundred letters in a recovered didactic meter, its measure now so divorced from its original context that it can teach nothing.
I propose to inhale the newly icy air from my porch each morning of winter, one breath for each of my beloveds.
I propose to sleep for seven days and nights without ceasing.
I propose that, when the sickness that is nostalgia comes to visit, I invite her in, serve her tea and cake, before I bid her go.
I propose to make a study of the mountain sky, thick with stars, the Perseids streaking through it, even when I am not there.
I propose, as the afternoon warms, then cools and darkens, gusts and stills, to live as if I were weather.