Elyse McFeggan

Poet Margaret Rozga Still Carries Torch

Civil rights pioneer, the state's 2019-20 Poet Laureate, still advocates for social justice.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Feb 12th, 2019 01:46 pm
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Margaret Rozga. Photo by Matthew Wisla/NNS.

Margaret Rozga. Photo by Matthew Wisla/NNS.

For Margaret Rozga, actions speak just as loudly as words.

As the new poet laureate of Wisconsin, she inherits a platform that allows her to advocate for social justice— something she’s done in Milwaukee and across the country.

Rozga, who was born on Milwaukee’s South Side, was an activist in the South before moving on to issues closer to home. “The first civil rights issue that I was involved in was voter registration, in rural Alabama, and I volunteered,” she said.

“When I came home, I thought I’d be a hypocrite if I went down South and did stuff and then didn’t do anything at home,” Rozga said.

She joined the NAACP Youth Council and became involved in the historic protests over fair housing in Milwaukee in the 1960s. She later married the Rev. James Groppi, a civil rights activist and youth council adviser. Groppi died in 1985.

Rozga was sworn in as the 2019-2020 Wisconsin poet laureate during a poetry marathon at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St. in Milwaukee.

In her position, Rozga serves as a voice for poets throughout the state.

And lines of supporters eagerly lined up to hear what she had to say during the swearing-in.

Rozga was literally handed a small torch by former poet laureate Karla Huston, who offered her this advice:

“Enjoy every moment; it goes by pretty fast. You will meet some extraordinary people in the state and some people you could never imagine love poetry as much as you do,” Huston told Rozga.

Rozga, who has published three collections of poetry, is English professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. In addition to publishing the poetry collections, “200 Nights and One Day,” “Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad,” “Justice Freedom Herbs” and “Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems,” Rozga has written multiple essays and is a regular contributor to Neighborhood News Service.

At the poetry event, Rozga signed books and reconnected with other poetry lovers.

Rozga’s former student, Kathrine Yets, attended the event to support her.

“She’s very important in my life and nobody could be a better poet laureate than she can,” Yets said. “She inspired me to be a better poet and I greatly appreciate her for that.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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