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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Mightier than the sword

By Paige Fieldsted

Since Katharine Coles was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be a poet–and a fireman.

While nothing ever became of the latter, she has been a poet for nearly her entire life.

Coles started writing poetry at the age of seven. While attending Rowland Hall St. Mark’s in Salt Lake City, she had several poems printed in school magazines.

“I placed my first poem in a ‘grown-up’ literary journal at 19,” Coles said. Since that time, she has published two novels and three collections of poems.

But her dream to be a poet has come true in more ways than one.

Coles, English professor at the U, was recently named Utah’s poet laureate after former Poet Laureate Ken Brewer lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in March. Coles said it is an enormous honor to follow her good friends Ken Brewer and David Lee.

“It is overwhelming to stand for and represent poetry for Utah,” she said of her new position.

The poet laureate of Utah is an ambassador for poetry to the state, and while the position involves no official duties, it still involves a lot of work. During her time as poet laureate, Coles said her goal is for “every person in Utah to come within earshot or eyeshot of a poem by a Utah poet.”

The project will begin in April, which is national poetry month, and is scheduled to finish in December of 2008. The plan is to videotape and audiotape poems and play them on Utah radio and television stations. Coles said she would also like to print poems on posters, flyers, coffee cups, grocery sacks and UTA buses.

Besides teaching and being poet laureate, Coles has been working alongside Fred Adler–who is a mathematics professor at the U–as co-director of the Utah Symposium in Science and Literature.

“The Utah Symposium in Science and Literature is actually a little intellectual indulgence of mine,” Coles said. “I find that, if I am around really smart people who know interesting things I don’t know, I can’t help but bring what they teach me into my poetry.”

Adler said Coles is worthy of the title of poet laureate for a number of reasons.

“The quality of her poetry, her breadth of intellectual interests and her talent for outreach (make her a good for the position),” Alder said.

Jon Midget, a former U student, said Coles changed his attitude toward poetry.

“She got me excited about poetry, and I am not a poet. I like fiction,” he said.

Midget said Coles’ ability to get other people excited about poetry is one of the reasons she will make a great poet laureate.

Bryan Lindsey, a U English graduate and former student of Coles’, said, “Her passion and commitment to poetry and to passing on that passion to others is something that really sets her apart from other great poets.”

“(Coles’ poetry) really connects abstract scientific theories with everyday ordinary life,” Midget said.

When asked about where she gets the inspiration for her poetry, Coles replied, “If you wait to be inspired, life will always interfere.”

Kim Peterson

The sweet smells of food from around the globe filled the Sage Point campus dorms during an international potluck Friday night.

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