Connecticut’s newest poet laureate, Rennie McQuilkin, says he wants to make poetry an integral part of the state’s culture.
McQuilkin, a resident of Simsbury since 1973 and current poet laureate of the town, has taken to promoting poetry as his life’s mission since he began teaching summer creative writing classes in the early 1960s at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
“I started to do my own assignments and that’s when I really got hooked as a poet,” McQuilkin said. “Ever since I have wanted to make people realize that poetry isn’t esoteric, hateful or scary. It’s beautiful and enjoyable.”
McQuilkin, who was born in 1936, says that his love of poetry truly began in the sixth grade — when his poem was pinned up on the bulletin board. From then on he wrote ocassionally until his 20s when he realized poetry was his passion and decided to spend his life promoting the art. Upon moving to Connecticut, McQuilkin continued teaching, finding a home in the English epartment of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington — but gradually became more involved in encouraging the art of poetry through the Hill-Stead Museum.
“In 1991 the Hill-Stead Museum contacted me and asked if I thought it was a good place for poetry,” McQuilkin said. “They were wrong, it was a perfect place.”