Orlando’s Inaugural Poet Laureate Brings the Magic of Storytelling to East Campus

Susan Lilley is Orlandos first poet Laureate. She will perform at Valencias East Campus on January 17th in the Atrium located in Building 3.

Susan Lilley is Orlando’s first poet Laureate. She will perform at Valencia’s East Campus on January 17th in the Atrium located in Building 3.

Edward Segarra, Contributing Writer

“We fall in love with stories as children, we watch them on stages and screens, we read them in novels. Stories are how we make meaning out of this confusing life.” These insights come from none other than Susan Lilley, Orlando’s first-ever poet laureate.

Lilley is slated to make an appearance at Valencia College’s East Campus on Wednesday, Jan. 17, from 7-9 p.m., in the Atrium (3-177). For those unfamiliar with the role of a poet laureate, Lilley explains her mission. “A poet laureate is an ambassador for creative writing in a community. I hope to make a difference with kids who don’t have much access to creative writing workshops and instruction,” Lilley stated.

Attendees of the Jan. 17th event will get to hear Lilley’s works recited in person. “I usually choose poems for a reading that people can ‘get’ well enough by just hearing them,” Lilley explained.

Lilley was selected as poet laureate through a process established in collaboration by the city of Orlando, United Arts of Central Florida and Burrow Press. This included an evaluation of Lilley’s artistic resume, level of experience and background.

With a Rita Dove Poetry Award and two published chapbooks under her belt, Lilley was no stranger to the literary world. Her stints as a teacher at Rollins College, University of Central Florida and Trinity Preparatory School made her a strong candidate. However, despite her wealth of experience and credentials, Lilley was hesitant to apply.

A family member inspired her to take a leap of faith. “I was encouraged to apply by my brother, David. He read about Mayor Dyer’s idea to find a poet laureate and he was just sure I was it,” Lilley confessed.

Lilley was awestruck upon discovering she was named Orlando’s first poet laureate. “[I was] shocked, but very humbled and gratified. I am pretty thrilled and hope to be worthy of this post,” Lilley gushed.

Lilley, 64, is a self-proclaimed late bloomer, having found her stride as a writer in her 30s. “I thought there were already enough good poets and I just wanted to read [poetry], teach it [and] love it. But finally I just had to write,” Lilley explained.

Lilley’s advice to aspiring writers is to enrich their minds with literature. “I think good writers start with reading. We imitate at first because it takes trying a lot of moves you learn from others to forge your own way, ironically,” Lilley said.

Lilley has had her work published in multiple publications including American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast and The Florida Review. She views networking as a vital source of kinship. “I love being part of a literary community because those are the people that understand how important creative work is,” Lilley revealed.

Lilley’s greatest hope for the literary arts scene of Orlando is a spirit of expansion. “I am amazed at the growth of our literary scene in just the last decade. May it continue to bloom and sparkle,” Lilley exclaimed.