Margaret Rozga has been a force for social justice in Milwaukee for more than half a century. She marched in the streets in 1967 for fair housing and she hasn't stopped fighting for social justice in our city. But Rozga is also an accomplished poet — a creative pursuit that is both fed by her activism and separate from it.
Rozga is a professor emerita of English at UW-Waukesha and her books include Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems, a biography of activist and writer Jessie Benton Frémont she wrote in narrative poems. She also edited the anthology Where I Want to Live: Poems for Fair and Affordable Housing and contributed a poem to it as well. She told us poetry has been with her even before her activism but the way she creates a poem has changed:
"Lately, it’s been more a case of 'I can’t write a poem, I can’t write a poem, I can’t write a poem, I’ve forgotten how to write poems, what am I going to do, this is the way I identify, I can’t write a poem — and there it is,' " she says.
On Jan. 14, The Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, part of The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, appointed Rozga as Wisconsin’s newest poet laureate. We asked her into the studio to talk about this latest chapter in her life.
Listen to Rozga reading her poem, Cake and Lemonade for Neighbors: