The City of Notions Speaks: A Conversation with Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges

By Evan Cutts

Featured Photo by Craig Bailey

“Boston was and still is a city known for its innovations and ideas; it is a city of many firsts,” said Boston’s Poet Laureate, Danielle Legros Georges.

In Legros Georges’ four-year term as Poet Laureate, she has served as an advocate for poetry, language, and the arts. She connects Boston’s rich, poetic history with its citizens through public readings, civic events, and arts advocacy.

Recently she conceived of and edited an anthology of contemporary poems about Boston, aptly titled City of Notions. Legros Georges explained that the collection focuses on “a variety of perspectives about Boston.”

“The anthology began with the annual Mayor’s poetry contest,” she told Color Magazine. “Through it, people who live or work in Boston are encouraged to submit their work for possible display in City Hall.”

As the contest judge for the past several years, Legros Georges noticed trends among numerous poems which drew on ideas of Boston—its history, landmarks, and seasons.

“I thought that the poems somehow belonged together,” she said.

She started with the group of poems that came out of the contest, then added poems from well-known and emerging poets.

The collection, released on July 27th, includes work from established writers affiliated with the city such as Patricia Smith, Margaret Atwood, and the late Derek Walcott to younger poets—Erick Verran, Chen Chen, and Krysten Hill—all writers whose “imaginations have been touched by Boston.”

To celebrate the launch of City of Notions, Legros Georges and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture organized a reading from the anthology at the Boston Public Library’s main branch (BPL). The reading attracted over seventy attendees.

An electrifying spoken-word showcase by MASS LEAP youth poets, Kofi Dadzie and Agnes Ugoji, jump-started the evening. Vibrant readings from Timothy Liu, Anna Ross, and several others followed. The Poet Laureate herself closed the reading with her poem, “Praisesong for Boston.”

Legros Georges, a long time resident of Boston shared some of her favorite places to write and find inspiration including Franklin Park, the Public Garden, her kitchen, and the BPL.

“The resources of the BPL cannot be underestimated,” she said. “Come and get what’s yours from the public libraries—free to all.”

That includes City of Notions, now circulating via all twenty-four public library branches in the Greater Boston Area.

Legros Georges informed us that the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, BPL, and she as Poet Laureate release newsletters on readings, workshops, grants, and writing fellowships.

The Poet Laureate suggests writers and curious Bostonians subscribe to her newsletter via email: daniellelauerate@gmail.com.

With plans to meet a friend for lunch at the waterfront, Legros Georges departed with an encouraging piece of advice for her fellow artists, specifically, women of color:

“I cannot overstate the power of doing your work as an artist; of creating your own venues, opportunities, and spaces; of challenging the constructs that disallow your voice to be heard—thereby leaving a trail for others.”