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Professor writes, reads poem for new Toledo mayor

Poetry is a passion for Dr. Jim Ferris.

So when he received a request from Wade Kapszukiewicz to write a poem that could be read when he would be sworn in as the new mayor of Toledo, Ferris put pen to paper.

Ferris

“I wrote a poem that seemed to work for the moment; it’s called ‘Laborare,’” Ferris, professor and Ability Center of Greater Toledo Endowed Chair in Disability Studies, said. “The Latin title means ‘To Work.’

“My initial plan was to pick something off the shelf. Inspiration to order has never been my strong suit. But I found myself thinking about the Latin phrase on the Toledo city seal, ‘laborare est orare’ [to work is to pray], and that led me to pick up a pen.”

Ferris, who began his second two-year term as the Lucas County poet laureate last summer, read the poem Jan. 2 when Kapszukiewicz officially took office as the Glass City’s mayor.

“Laborare” also was included in the program for the mayor’s inaugural events last weekend.

“It is quite an honor to serve as poet laureate of Lucas County; I hope I can be an ambassador for poetry and the arts in general in northwest Ohio,” Ferris said. “And it is quite gratifying when people find my work engaging and useful.”

He is the author of “Slouching Towards Guantanamo,” “Facts of Life” and “The Hospital Poems.” His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, Text and Performance Quarterly, and the Georgia Review.

“For me, poetry is not separate from my work to create greater access and opportunity for people with disabilities, people of color, and other oppressed groups in society,” Ferris said. “My commitment to diversity and inclusion informs my poems, whether that commitment is readily apparent or not.”

As Lucas County poet laureate, he shares his love of words and presents poetry to the area community.

“Samuel Taylor Coleridge described poetry as the best words in the best order; I think of language as humanity’s most important tool and toy. We do things with language, we use language to perform work, and sometimes we are most productive when we are most playful,” Ferris said. “Language is fun, and this is sort of a productive paradox: I hope my poems are useful and fun at the same time, whether it’s laugh-out-loud fun or ‘Oh, that’s moving’ fun.”