Long-time Aurora resident Karen Fullett-Christensen is the first poet laureate in Aurora’s history.
Mayor Richard Irvin this week chose Fullett-Christensen from a field of four finalists to hold the position he created. He praised her for her creativity and ideas, and for her background in the city. Fullett-Christensen, the founder of A-Town Poetics, a poetry group based in Aurora, has already been doing the work of a poet laureate for years, Irvin said.
“It was a hard task,” he said. “A lot came down to the work she has done for decades.”
Irvin pointed out that the announcement was being made on the anniversary of the death of Gwendolyn Brooks, the famous poet laureate of Illinois for many years. The installation of Fullett-Christensen as poet laureate, along with a program, will take place in January at Gwendolyn Brooks School in Aurora.
It also was the anniversary of the death of Fullett-Christensen’s mother, something she said she was thinking about.
“My mom was such as supporter of my writing,” Fullett-Christensen said. “I feel like she’s here with me.”
A retired urban planner and executive with the city of Aurora, Fullett-Christensen has written several collections of poetry and creative non-fiction. She has completed 16 self-published manuscripts and is currently working on her 17th body of work, many of which have been published in the Downtown Auroran Magazine, in the High Holidays prayer book for the Aurora Jewish Renewal Congregation and on a variety of online sites.
Her poetry has been used for a number of public presentations, including exhibits for National Poetry Month in collaboration with the Illinois State Poetry Society.
Irvin said the choice was so hard, and the finalists so close, that both he and Fullet-Christensen asked Quentin Johnson, Fermina Ponce and Anthony Stanford to be part of the poet laureate’s work, to be known as poetry ambassadors. A lot of that was because they seemed to have similar ideas and attitudes about the work.
Fullett-Christensen said they all get along, and she referred to them as the “poetry posse.”
“I loved that we’re all on the same page,” Fullett-Christensen said. “Everyone’s heart is in the same place.”
Irvin first announced his intention to find a poet laureate for the city several months ago, and made an official call for candidates in early October. To qualify for the position, the applicant had to be a self-identified poet, a full-time resident of Aurora for the duration of the position and available to participate in public events.
A committee reviewed the applications, and finalists were invited for face-to-face interviews and recitations.