Poet Laureate 2018


Megan Gillespie is a poet, actor, educator and mother. Her work has appeared in The Florida Review, New Delta Review, and Cimarron Review. Her honors include fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and Lector Writer’s and Performance Art Residency. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. 

Megan’s diverse professional background includes roles in teaching, educational leadership, and business. She continues to explore new professional opportunities, and currently works as a writing coach for the Wharton Communication Program, where she prepares students for communication challenges they’ll face as future business leaders, and as an instructor for Books@Work, where she facilitates literature discussions to break down barriers in the workplace. In her spare time she enjoys all things theatre arts, culinary arts, and outdoors. Her son Jonah attends Belmont University in Nashville, and her cat, TJ Maxx, works hard to keep the household lively while Jonah’s away.

“It was very hard to pick a winner this year, but I must say that the poetry of Megan Gillespie bowled me over. She is a storyteller, and her poetry is a braid of life histories, vividly told, laced with glowing concrete detail and image, from “the cheap/ summer frocks that flap in the breeze/ all down 52nd above the sneakers/ and fake watches and Moroccan oils” to how a cheerleader “ascends sideways, creating an arc/ till she’s prone on her side, then lifts her top leg/ slowly, as if to say flying is nothing, really.” This is not poetry that sits on the page: it compels you to read it aloud, and then pulse takes over, the ancient urge to declaim, to tell, to share my world through body and voice and rhythm. Megan’s poetry is both modern and ancient: the wise storyteller holds close her hearers, letting them feel her and her history. Whether the subject is an old janitor, the smell of men, a son’s first encounter with the tooth fairy, or squatting in the summer homes of rich folks, there is compassion, hurt, heart, humor, and meaning in the accomplished, worldly poetry of Megan Gillespie. She and all our fine poets deserve our best congratulations. Long may all of them write!”

John Timpane

2018 Celebrity Judge