County begins campaign for local writer to receive poet laureate designation
Published 8:00 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Every craftsman needs their own space to create the things they do best.
A carpenter needs a workbench. A chef needs a kitchen. And a great writer needs somewhere calm and serene where they can put pen to paper without the innumerable distractions of the outside world.
For Cassopolis’ Lois Cross-Heart, that space is located in the basement of her spacious ranch-style home, located in the luscious farmlands south of the village in Jefferson Township. With a bookshelf full of classic literature and pictures of beloved family members to her left and a breathtaking view of the trees surrounding her property out of patio doors ahead of her, Cross-Heart has spent countless hours molding the stories from her imagination into the rhymes and stanzas that have come to characterize her poetry, all while sitting in her old plaid chair near the room’s curio cabinet.
“One morning, while I was getting ready for work, six poems came to mind, just like that,” Cross-Heart said.
While many of these works remained unpublished, inside one of her many notebooks lining one of her shelves or on the small coffee table where she does most of her writing, the local poet may find herself thrust into a much larger spotlight.
Over the last several weeks, a number of county residents, including County Chairperson Bernie Williamson, have launched a campaign to get the longtime Cassopolis writer appointed as the Poet Laureate of the State of Michigan. Earlier this month, the county board of commissioners enacted a resolution requesting that state legislators representing the county work to make this happen.
Already named the county poet laureate in 2012, the members of the committee decided to push for Cross-Heart to assume the mantle throughout the state due to the fact that the position has been vacant since 1959, after the passing of former poet laureate Edgar Guest.
“She is a wonderful candidate for the position,” said Cathy LaPointe, a member of the committee.
LaPointe, a founding member of the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, first discovered Cross-Heart’s writing in 2008. Enamored with simple, yet powerful works, she asked the local poet to write some pieces for the URSCC, with Cross-Heart penning the organization’s official anthem, “The Cass County Brave.”
For the longtime writer, who has penned close to 1,000 works, the newfound exposure is quite a new thing for her, she said.
Born the oldest of eight children in Little River, Michigan, Cross-Heart grew up surrounded by poetry, read to her by her grandfather, Thomas Cross. While well versed in the works of classic writers such as Walt Whitman and Henry Longfellow, it wasn’t until later in life that she began to seriously compose her own works, with her first completed piece being the epic “Man Walks Here,” about a group of animals reacting to the presence of a hunter showing up in their forest, she said.
“I really don’t think I’ve ever created a poem that didn’t have some lines referring to nature,” Cross-Heart said. “It’s a very precious thing to me.”
Moving to the Cassopolis region in the 1970s, Cross-Heart spent most of her time writing in her spare time, as she pursued a career in design. Despite her lack of formal education in writing poetry, she easily discovered inspiration for new works, often transporting readers to the natural beauty of her home through her florally and detailed prose, she said.
“I think that’s why people like my work, because it’s so full of imagery,” she said. “I consider myself more a storyteller than a poet.”
Her works have been published in several magazines throughout the last few decades, and a number of them were compiled in a book entitled “the Color of Nether,” published in 2011. The vast majority of them have remained unpublished, though, as she had never sought notoriety nor acclaim through her works, she said.
“Poetry, to me, is a friend,” Cross-Heart said. “It’s a part of me, and I can amuse myself with it.”
In recent years though, the poet has had a greater desire to share her works with the wider world, and is hoping that, if selected, her position, as state poet laureate will give her the opportunity to do so, she said.
The men and women supporting her appointment hope to accomplish that goal as well.
“My hope is that more people can discover her poetry and enjoy it,” LaPointe said. “And I hope they enjoy getting to know her as well.”