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After a nearly 2-year wait Jane Ellen Ibur is set to become St. Louis’ poet laureate

Jane Ellen Ibur calls herself a cowgirl. Some of her poetry imagines history from the point of view of the women who were with figures like Tonto and Hopalong Cassidy. She said that women often changed their lives to fit into the roles of wife and mother.
Jane Ellen Ibur

Jane Ellen Ibur’s long wait to be designated as St. Louis’ official poet will soon be over.

A task force first chose Ibur in December 2016 to replace Michael Castro as the city’s poet laureate. Buta conflictwithin the group delayed a vote by the Board of Aldermen. One member, whose term in the group was in dispute, wanted to nominate longtime St. Louis poet Shirley LeFlore.

Acommittee that began its work this past summer also chose Ibur for the post. Ibur was happy when she got the call Monday from board President Lewis Reed that she will bcome poet laureate in April. LeFlore will serve until then.

“[I was] relieved, surprised, glad the waiting is over,” Ibur said. “I just want to shake it off at this point and move forward.”

‘Rock this city’

Ibur, 67, is an author and teacher who often works with incarcerated people and veterans. She likens her upcoming position to that of an ambassador for poetry.

“I think it gives almost a kind of legitimacy … [like] ‘This is interesting; let’s bring this person in’ and have me come in and talk about poetry,” Ibur said.

She hopes the post will open doors to places where she can do what she loves best.

“I have people who write about very heavy stuff with a smile on their face because, literally, it's coming out,” Ibur said. “And they're sculpting it into something else.”

The Board of Aldermen is expected to confirm Ibur’s appointment on Friday. LeFlore will fill the post until Ibur begins her term April 1 — the first day of National Poetry Month — according to Reed’s office.

Ibur is looking forward to her two-year term and to spreading the word about the importance, and the joy, of poetry.

“We’re going to rock this city and have some fun,” she said.

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.