Introducing Nicholas Gulig: Wisconsin's new state poet laureate
Wisconsin has recently appointed a new poet laureate. His name is Nicholas Gulig and he has authored three poetry books and is currently an associate professor at UW-Whitewater. As the state poet laureate, Guilg will play a crucial role in keeping poetry and creativity accessible to all ages for the duration of his two-year term through the Wisconsin Poet Laureate.
For Gulig, a lifelong pursuit of poetry is a natural result of his upbringing. A native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Gulig was not permitted to watch television growing up and instead mainly entertained himself through literature. His father was a lover of poetry and would often read Gulig poems at bedtime, establishing a genuine interest in the craft during his adolescent years. While feeding this fascination in literature, Gulig would typically reach the 50 book limit while making his weekly selections at the local public library where he grew up.
During his teenage years, Gulig held an aspiration to play professional hockey, but a knee injury would eventually extinguish the dream of becoming a professional hockey player. While rehabbing at home, the poetry books in his home quickly ignited a new passion and career choice for Gulig.
"While I was on that couch, there was nothing to do except read books. And I was pulling books off of my dad's bookshelf and a lot of those books were poetry books and I started reading them. I started finding joy in them. There were things happening there that interested me. And so that summer, I started trying to do myself what what I was reading," he says.
Now, firmly established in his career and into his tenure as poetry laureate which began on January 14, 2023, Gulig is determined to use the position to continue to advance and advocate the work of poets around the state.
"There's all these people doing this work that is wildly invisible, even to someone like me. And so I think first and foremost, what I can do is to take the light that's being shined on me at this moment in my life and I can divert that towards the people who are in the trenches, or literary trenches doing the really important work. I think of making creative spaces available for people, and in particular poets," says Gulig.
Gulig says poetry's value and impact on our society and world are best noticed and felt when analyzing how it helps people articulate complex thoughts and emotions.
"I think we live in a culture where everything feels like a version of something else, like everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. I think the poems that are the most important to me resist that framework, or they don't fit easily into that framework. They aren't marketable in that way by virtue of their difficulty. Poems require time, and they require attention in a world where so little does anymore," says Gulig.
While describing his personal inspiration as an artist, Gulig uses poetry as a way to bridge meaning. "I think I draw my inspiration from that moment where language fails or language falls short," he says.