Much of Shari Wagner’s poetry finds inspiration drawn from nature — she frequently takes to the woods in search of beauty and insight for her pieces. Wagner might have acquired this habit in her hometown of Markle, Indiana, on the Wabash River, but her original poetic inspiration came at the age of 13 during a mission trip to Somalia, in the Horn of East Africa, when she viewed an arid but beautiful desert.
Her influences have been diverse, but she still is drawn to Indiana’s parks, forests, and Native American mounds. Chosen in November 2015 by the Indiana Arts Commission as Indiana’s 2016-2017 State Poet Laureate, she is the state’s chief ambassador for the resilient art of poetry. In June, she was a featured speaker at the Arts in Harmony Festival in New Harmony, Indiana.
What is a poet laureate tasked with?
I go to community events like Arts in Harmony and to a lot of libraries, parks, churches, schools, and literary clubs. I give writing workshops and poetry readings to promote the writing and reading of poetry. By means of my laureate website, Through the Sycamores, I also promote our state’s many wonderful poets.
Did you feel a special inspiration when you visited Angel Mounds?
Oh, yes. It’s believed a chieftain would have climbed the tallest mound there to call up the sun every morning. That image really struck a chord in me. My poem called “The Soloist” came from my research into that.
What were the highlights of the Arts in Harmony festival for you?
Listening to the poets there in the Poets Corner outside the Rapp-Owen Granary. I was impressed by all of the readers, including some Evansville poets, Steve Castro, Tom Raithel, and Mark Williams.
For more information on Shari Wagner, visit throughthesycamores.com.