Louisiana's first black male poet laureate will visit Nicholls State University next Wednesday to raise money for the CROWN program.

During the program, Poet Laureate John Warner Smith will discuss his life and complete a few readings from one of his books. Currently, he teaches English at Southern University in addition serving as the poet laureate, or a poet appointed by the state who composes work for special events.

CROWN -- or Colonel Retention of Winners Network -- is a program at the university that pairs first-year black male students with peer mentors on campus.

In its third semester, CROWN coordinator Farren Clark said they're trying to raise funds for new collared shirts for the students, conference and field trip travel and the creation of a fund to offer help to students in purchasing items like a textbook if needed.

"There may be some special cases where someone would need a little extra help," said Clark.

Though members of the public will pay for entry to the program, CROWN students will be admitted free.

"When he shares in his story, I think it will inspire somebody to make finish out the semester strong having heard somebody like John Warner Smith," said Clark.

Smith has four published collections of poetry, “Muhammad’s Mountain," “Spirits of the Gods," “Soul Be A Witness" and “A Mandala of Hands," with a fifth on its way, called "Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in America."

Much of his poetry draws upon African American history and his personal experiences of growing up and living in the South.

When Gov. John Bel Edwards named Smith as the laureate, he said, "John Warner Smith's writing captures the human experience through meaningful, passionate poetry that moves your emotions. John is not only a talented and gifted poet, he is a trailblazer who devotes himself to education and the greater good of the community.”

The event will take place on Nov. 13 starting at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for the general public and $7 for Nicholls students with an ID.

Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling Andrea Clark at 448-4020 or at the door.

 

--Staff Writer Halle Parker can be reached at hparker@houmatoday.com or 857-2204. Follow her on Twitter, @_thehalparker.