24th Year of Inspiring Words and Music


Poet »

Lisa Starr

In one respect, poets are lucky.  Every aspect of the poet’s life – everything the poet sees, hears, feels – every person encountered or remembered – every least or great experience – all of life is potentially grist for the poet’s creative mill.  Lisa Starr’s work exemplifies this usefulness of experience with a candid and emotional directness that makes her work accessible and memorable to her readers.  Consider her short poem “Late August”:

And then there is the way
that summer
tiptoes off one evening
just at dusk;
the fallen apples on the lane
speak of sadness,
leaving you surprised and
cold again
as you remember lovers
who gently turned,
and left

In recent years, life has confronted Lisa Starr some all too common but nonetheless bitter hardships – a dear mother’s death and a busted marriage, the fledging of grown children, dissolution of a successful business, and pulling up of deeply set roots – and she has written about these experiences in ways that have carved new ground in her art, like these opening lines from “When Your Mother Is Sick”:

When Your Mother Is Sick

not just a little but with any of the many that could prove
to be the one – you do not, you can not break down,
but be warned how your body will.

Your neck will be the first to go, helping you discover
the specificity of bones and placement, the lost and found of nerves.
But you will not weaken; you will keep on 

showing up…

These experiences test the poet – as they test all of us – to endure and seek a way to reaffirm life.  These are the moments that test wisdom and the ability of art to deliver it.  As readers we are attuned to the least note of false enlightenment reported by the poet from the hospital, the graveside, or the midnight silence of the empty house.  But in poem after poem, Lisa Starr finds honest affirmation through the tears, and earns a quiet and useful wisdom.  This is surely why her work has earned devoted readers.

In 1986, as a college sophomore, Lisa Starr ventured to Block Island for a summer waitressing job, and never wanted to leave.  So she didn’t.  No doubt, this is a tale that could be told by residents of many vacation destinations, but what makes Lisa Starr’s story unique is how Block Island became the muse for her passion for poetry, which has earned her honors and renown.  She is the State Poet Laureate Emerita of Rhode Island, and has been honored with two Rhode Island Fellowships for Poetry and has twice won the Nancy Potter Prize for fiction.  She has published three highly regarded books of poems and an anthology, Where Beach Meets Ocean that features poems by Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Coleman Barks and other artists and poets (including her) who participated in the Block Island Poetry Project.  She is currently readying a new book of poems for publication, to be called Pot Luck.

As Rhode Island’s Poet Laureate, Starr made it her special mission to use writing to connect elders with young students.  Across the state, she seeded and nurtured writing centers at schools and elderly living facilities.  Then within a town or community she facilitated pen-pal exchanges of stories and poems between the elders and students, which promoted “listening and communicating between our old and young.” 

As part of her engagement with The Arts CaféMystic, Ms. Starr will lead a Poetry Master Class for the Student Poets Laureate of six of the region’s high schools, providing them an exceptional opportunity to learn from a professional poet.  The talented young writers include Hale Anderson of Stonington High, Michaela Green of Waterford High, Clara Gerrish of Fitch High, Erika deAndrade of Ledyard High, and Ryan Gallagher of Montville High. They will also open the March 23rd program of The Arts Café, by reading from their work.

In reply to the much abused question “what advice would you give an aspiring young writer”, Starr recently said, “Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you are not ‘good enough’ to be a poet. If you love to write, and you feel a particular calling to do it, then honor those impulses. Read other poets, and read them out loud. And write because you want to, because you love to, because you know that you have something to say that might just make a difference in someone else’s world.”  In these and many other ways, Lisa Starr embodies her own advice and is the ideal model for your poets.

Lisa Starr is a charismatic force at the podium and her readings are memorable for their passion and humor.  She has been a featured reader at the Dodge Poetry Festival, the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and many other venues across the U.S. and abroad.