Meet Barb Jennes, Ridgefield’s Inaugural Poet Laureate (2020-2023)
Early in 2020, the Ridgefield Board of Selectmen launched a search for a new appointee whose duties would be to “promote an appreciation for poetry for the solace, enjoyment, and delight” of Ridgefield residents. A seven-member Poet Laureate selection panel was convened, composed of members of the Ridgefield Arts Council, Ridgefield Library staff, poetry advocates, and representatives from the school and senior communities.
As a result, Barb Jennes—a long-time Ridgefield educator and 20-plus-year town resident—was selected.
Although her term began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barb jumped in feet-first, orchestrating a series of videos of Ridgefield notables reading their favorite poem, offering solace and encouragement to a town stifled by lockdown. Barb also launched a Haiku scavenger hunt downtown, enabling families to enjoy some socially distanced, outdoor fun during a dispiriting time.
Since then, Barb has facilitated a wide range of poetry readings, events, and workshops for adults, teens, children, and intergenerational groups—“My favorite,” Barb reports.
Projects undertaken through February 16, 2022, include:
- Custom poems written and performed for key Town events (9/11 Commemoration, MLK Day Celebration, Patriots’ Day, Giving Thanks food drive)
- “A Garden of Verse” poetry series held during summer months in the historic walled gardens of Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center
- In-person and on-line readings by such internationally acclaimed poets as Jericho Brown, Patricia Smith, and Marilyn Nelson, as well as by local and regional poets
- Monthly workshops through the Ridgefield Library and intergenerational art/poetry hybrid workshops hosted at The Aldrich Museum