Marisa Moks-Unger, Erie County Poet Laureate
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Click here to read Ms. Moks-Unger's Poetry
Marisa Moks-Unger, Erie County Poet Laureate
Marisa Moks-Unger is a resident of Erie’s Westside, but was raised in her early years in Summit Township. She is a the author of a collection of chapbook-length poetry, Mud and Stars (Nightballet Press, Cleveland, 2015), which was birthed in a four-story walkup in Manhattan’s Lower East Side during the summer of 2012. Her work appears in such publications as Midwestern Gothic Literary Magazine, Pressure Press Poetry, Hesler Street Fair Poetry Anthology, Guide to Kulchur Creative Journal, Dwelling in Possiblity: Voices of Erie County, and many others. She has read at such venues as: The Newyorican Poets’ Café and Stark Open Mic (New York City); The S.O.U.L. Collaborative of Creative Art Series (Detroit, Michigan); The Deep Cleveland Poetry Series, Mahall’s, and Bistro 70 (Cleveland, Ohio); and Women of Word, Poetry in the Park, Poetry at Presque Isle, Poets’ Hall, and PACA (Erie, Pennsylvania). She organizes and co-organizes events, including Piece of Cake and 100 Thousand Poets for Change to enable others to give voice to social justice issues. Her poetry is often based on ekphrastic response to other art forms, including photography, fine art, and pop art. She is largely influenced by the works of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, William Butler Yeats, and Carl Sandburg.
Moks-Unger holds an MA in English from Gannon University and earned a BA from the University of Central Florida in Orlando where she majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is a former secondary English teacher in the City of Erie School District. Currently, she is the owner of an internet startup called We Write It Right, a full-service writing and editing company based in Erie, Pennsylvania. In addition, she is a published journalist, essayist, and travel writer.
Moks-Unger is a two-time Erie Country Poet Laureate Finalist (2012, 2014). She is a member of the American Academy of Poets, Poets House, and the International Women’s Writing Guild. She serves as the area representative for the IWWG, where she facilitates monthly meet-ups and organizes regional writing retreats. Locally, she is a member of The Women’s Round Table, the American Association of University Women, and the Coffee Club Divas. The mother of two adult daughters, she is married to – and continues to rumba with - her husband, Tom Unger.
About the Erie County Poet Laureate Initiative
Ms. Moks-Unger and 11 other local poets applied for the Poet Laureate designation this year. A five member jury scored their written poems and project ideas. Five finalists were chosen from that group for a public reading on August 29th at the Hirt Auditorium. Ms. Moks-Unger was chosen as the 2016-2017 Erie County Poet Laureate based on her superior scores and performance, project, and poetry.
In addition to the honor and responsibilities of being named, the 2016-2017 Erie County Poet Laureate will be awarded a $7,500 grant which provides a $3,000 stipend to the poet and $4,500 to carry out a project to help bring poetry to the people of Erie County.
Erie County Government, in cooperation with Edinboro University, Gannon University, Mercyhurst University and Penn State Behrend, started the Poet Laureate Initiative in 2009. Already it has received recognition for its impact on the arts in our region; receiving the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association County Arts Award in 2011 and the National Association of Counties National Arts Award in 2012. Past Laureate’s include Berwyn Moore 2009-2010, Dr. Thomas Forsthoefel 2010-2012, Ron Hayes 2013-2014, and Cee Williams 2015-2016. Governing the Initiative are the Members of the Erie County Poetry Committee: Joseph Giles, former Erie County Councilman; Dr. Greg Brown, Professor of English, Mercyhurst College; Helene Grande, Communications Specialist, Erie School District (retired); Mary Jane Koenig, Writing Specialist (retired), Erie School District; George Looney, Professor of English, Penn State University – The Behrend Campus; Berwyn Moore, Professor of English, Gannon University; Caroline Hohmann, Professor, Edinboro University; Amanda Sissem, Executive Director of Erie Arts & Culture; Ben Speggen, Program Director at Jefferson Educational Society, and Douglas Smith, Erie County Clerk.