Borough President James Oddo named Marguerite Maria Rivas as Staten Island’s first Poet Laureate during a ceremony at Borough Hall on June 26, 2019 at 6 PM. The appointment of the Staten Island Poet Laureate is an unpaid, volunteer position, appointed for a 4-year term by the Borough President, based on the recommendation of a selection committee. The Poet Laureate will be charged with performing responsibilities related to community outreach and projects that promote poetry and/or literacy on the Island.
The event, which was open to the public, was attended by members of the local arts community who came to celebrate the work and achievements of Marguerite Maria Rivas. Attendees were honored with a poetry reading of a few of Marguerite’s pieces, including one titled “Staten Island Night Chant, for Staten Island”, which can be viewed here.
During the ceremony, Marguerite was presented with a MakerspaceNYC handmade broach to celebrate her appointment as Staten Island’s first Poet Laureate.
“I've become a big fan of our new Poet Laureate Dr. Marguerite Maria Rivas because her deep affinity for Staten Island is quite evident. I love the way she champions our community,” said Borough President James Oddo. “I didn’t know there was in fact already a de facto Poet Laureate for Staten Island, tonight she is de facto no more. I love having you as an ally, please continue to do your wonderful work.”
A special thanks goes to the selection committee who made their recommendation to the Borough President, which included Elizabeth Bennett, Director of Staten Island Arts; Saroltya A. Takacs, PhD, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Staten Island; and Abriana Jette, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at St. John’s University.
“Staten Island has always been my home, my subject, and my inspiration,” said Dr. Rivas. “Throughout my adult life, it has been my privilege to have taught poetry in the community, in grammar schools, and in colleges. Poetry brings people joy, an understanding of themselves, and an awareness of their connectedness to their communities and the world around them. It is a living, breathing expression of shared experiences.
“Borough President Oddo’s decision to appoint a Staten Island Poet Laureate demonstrates his commitment to the arts and their role in the promotion of literacy. It is a profound honor to be appointed the first Poet Laureate of Staten Island, one of three Borough Poets Laureate of New York City. I look forward to working with the Borough President’s Office and Staten Islanders as we celebrate and elevate our beautiful island home.”
A native Staten Islander, Marguerite Maria Rivas is a graduate of Tottenville High School and holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the College of Staten Island. She received a Doctor of Arts and Letters degree, specializing in poetry, in 2001 from Drew University. She is an Associate Professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
As the sole supporter of her children, Dr. Rivas often worked three jobs while earning her doctorate. In between working and studying, she wrote poetry, often at night while her children were sleeping. Dr. Rivas’ poetry, both lyric and long-form, is largely based on the culture, history and natural environment of Staten Island. Her poetry has been widely published in journals, anthologies and in a best-selling college textbook. She is also the author of two full-length collections of poems. In her book, “Tell No One: Poems of Witness,” her poems reflect the kinship and the resiliency of Staten Islanders in the aftermath of Sept. 11. A poem from this collection, “Witness,” is included in the National September 11th Museum’s online collection, along with two others.
She has received numerous grants and awards for her poetry, including the National Council of Teachers of English/Two-Year College Association National Poetry Month Award for her poem “Witness.” She is also the recipient of the Staten Island Arts Excellence in Literature Award, The Marg Chandler Memorial Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation, and The Irene C. Fromer Award from Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.