New laureate poised to continue Norwalk’s tradition of poetry
NORWALK — The city now has its second ever poet laureate.
Longtime Norwalker William Hayden was selected after a several-month search for a replacement to teh city’s first poet laureate, Laurel Peterson. His appointment was announced at last week’s LitCrawl, sponsored by the Norwalk Public Library. Peterson announced she’d step down from the role in the fall after three years.
“The poet laureate is an important role, and I look forward to working more closely with Bill. I know he is excited to promote and expand access to poetry and arts in Norwalk. I wish him luck and know he will do great,” said Mayor Harry Rilling, who created the honorary position in 2016.
Hayden grew up in Westchester, N.Y., where he first experimented writing poems about nature as a teenaged lifeguard. He went on to a career as a logistics manager in international shipping, but maintained an abiding love for words. Even before his appointment as poet laureate, has been an active member in Norwalk’s literary community.
He regularly participates in Curley’s Dinner Poetry Group in Stamford, the Poetry Salon at the Fairfield Public Library, and Monday Expressions East at the Never Ending Bookstore in New Haven.
He’s been published in 2018’s “Oysterville,” the digital recording and chapbook organized by Peterson that features Norwalk poets, the “Anthology of Norwalk Poets Tuesday Night Life and the “Anthology of Curley’s Poets,” as well as “The Little Apple Literary Magazine.”
Hayden’s also an avid reader
“I typically have at least a dozen books out of the library at any one time, particularly poetry,” Hayden said.
At the moment, he’s reading the memoir of the poet Stanley Kunitz, called “The Wild Braid,” mixed with several books on street arts and murals in cities nationwide. The latter is research, he said, inspired by a recent trip to Dennis Bradbury’s 22 Haviland Gallery, where an exhibition celebrating public art, and calling on proposals for new installations at Ryan Park, grabbed his attention.
”I’m a visual artist as well. I like painting and visual arts quite a bit and I was stimulated by the idea of mural painting. I like the idea that it’s a new thing to me,” Hayden said.
Like Peterson before him, Hayden hopes to bring an interdisciplinary approach to the position. For 28 years, he and his wife, Brandi, have run the Good Folk Coffeehouse at the Rowayton United Methodist Church, where he organized mixed music and poetry performances. Most recently, at a celebration of poetry and jazz on April 5 at the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center, Hayden read one of his poems backed by the jazz musician Neddy Smith and his trio.
His early plans as laureate include creating a writers workshop at the Norwalk Library that meets once or twice a month. Hayden is also hoping to partner with a local gallery on an ekphrastic poetry event, in which the poetry is based on the writers viewing of some other work of art, usually paintings, photographs or statues. Ekphrasis was also a keen interest of Peterson’s, with whom Hayden said he’s conferred regularly since he learned of his appointment.
“Bill brings to the position a love of words and sounds, and an enthusiasm for reaching out to young people. Involved in our poetry community from the start, he contributed to the printed and audio collection “Oysterville: Poems.” Bill’s understanding of poetry’s history, forms and craft will only enrich our community,” Peterson said.
Now, though, he’s ready to assume the mantle and pursue his own creative ambitions as laureate.
“I picked her brain quite a bit before she handed over the baton to me,” Hayden laughed. “But now it’s time to give her a rest.”
To contact William Hayden, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
email@example.com; @justinjpapp1; 203-842-2586