Aron Ryan, 2024-2025

Aron Ryan, Elgin's third Poet Laureate, holding a cup of coffeeAron (he/they) is an avid poet and avid reader. As a KidSpace Library Associate at Gail Borden Public Library, he enjoys helping kids find their favorite books, welcoming families to the library, and leading programs for kids. One of their favorite library programs is their Writing Club program, a monthly workshop for elementary and middle school writers. As a graduate student working toward his Master’s in Library Science degree, Aron hopes to someday serve their community as a librarian. 

In addition to cultivating community through his library role, he enjoys leading LGBTQ+ community events as a volunteer event coordinator at Elgin Pride. Whether it’s a hike at a local forest preserve, a meet-and-greet at a downtown café, or his monthly LGBTQ+ Rainbow Writers workshop, Aron loves welcoming Elgin’s growing LGBTQ+ community.

When they’re not working, studying, or volunteering, Aron savors his happy-introvert-time spent reading and writing. As a reader, he enjoys a variety of books, including manga, graphic novels, fiction novels (especially audiobooks!), picture books, and of course, poetry. Aron’s looking forward to writing plenty of poetry celebrating Elgin’s events, places, and most importantly, people. As a neurodiversity advocate, Aron hopes to welcome neurodivergent storytellers to their poetry programs. As an advocate for DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility), Aron hopes to make poetry welcoming (and fun!) for all of Elgin’s wonderfully diverse community members.

Aron’s Thoughts on the Role of Elgin’s Poet Laureate

“I hope that people learn how to share their own stories. I find a lot of writers have fantastic stories to tell, but there may be some trepidation. My goal is to create a safe space for writers.” – published in Elgin Courier News, January 5th, 2024

Elgin: City of Light

by Aron Ryan

We remember
loved ones, seres queridos
on Día De Los Muertos,
firelight welcoming families home
to ofrendas – like the sunset welcomes stars
to their cradles in the sky.

We remember
reclaiming sacred spaces,
celebrating Hanukkah
with each candle on the menorah.
Brighter with each night,
our light grows like a garden in the window.

We remember
our inner light, celebrating Diwali.
Sand pink, green, yellow, blue,
every color, every hue, sprouting into a lotus
bloom. Fire adorns every petal,
clay lamps glowing marigold (a pungent perfume.)

We remember
our city of light, the smell of smoke
in death and in life.
Even our birth blazes bright, every life
in our city worthy of a candle
and a wish for something, everything wonderful.

Gareth Mann (Sitz), 2022-2023

Gareth MannGareth is a Manhattan, New York, native, a graduate of the University of Chicago, a multi-lingual long-time citizen of Elgin.

Gareth has spent more than 40 years as a serious poet, and is widely known and beloved throughout Elgin’s poet community, as mentor, teacher and inspirational poetic performer. She is a playwright and serves as artistic director of Femmeprov and president of Independent Players. Professionally, Gareth is a career educator, having taught in both public and private schools in Elgin as well as District 300 from 1969-2013. 

Gareth’s Thoughts on the Role of Elgin’s Poet Laureate

“At its best, a poem inspires others to feel deeply or to see things in a new way. A well-crafted poem and its presentation is a gift to its citizens. As poetry is concise language, a lot can be said in a few words, and marking a special occasion in the life our community with a poem is just a delightful thing to do. Ideally, these public presentations will enhance the life of its citizens, teaching them more about poetry as they experience it on a gut level. Poems written by a poet laureate can teach citizens about the history of individuals and places important to the city’s past.”

“Poetry is a window to the soul. I am trained as a poetry therapist. I credit my ability to use poetry to understand myself and others as a primary healing element in my own life, and I believe my ability to facilitate emotional growth is perhaps my strongest suit as a teacher and mentor.

I like nothing more than guiding others to find themselves and to grow as people through their words. My training makes me uniquely qualified to be a sensitive and responsive listener as young poets learn to touch their souls.

As Elgin’s poet laureate, one of my goals would be to reach into Elgin’s soul with my words and get others to do the same. I’d love to see a collection of work about our city and its history.

Reading poetry aloud is a gift I treasure and my delight is teaching others to be better oral interpreters of their own and others work.”

A Poet’s Prayer

by Gareth Mann, October, 2021

Let my words celebrate Elgin
My city
My chosen home
Let my words celebrate Elgin and its people

Let my words celebrate diversity
Promoting understanding
May citizens of every color, faith, ethnicity
And gender orientation
Feel proud
As words of celebration
Pass my lips

May I find the words to understand my city
Its past and its present
May I find the words to look to the future with hope

May I find the words to praise my city
With insight
And poetry’s delight

May I find the words to
Resound with gratitude
Striving to grow and learn
Listening to the pulse of our city

Inaugural Term, 2018-2020

Chasity Gunn

Chasity is an Alabama native and Elgin resident during her term and also an English professor at Elgin Community College. She graduated from Belmont University’s Honor Program with a journalism degree. Chasity worked as a newspaper reporter at The Tennessean and The Daily News Journal before heading to graduate school. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Hamline University.

Chasity graciously extended her service as Poet Laureate during the pandemic, so the Project could re-convene in 2021 to begin the second term search. Thank you, Chasity!

After her term, Chasity became a fellow with the Academy of Poet Laureate Fellowships.

Chasity Gunn

Memorial Day Poem, 2019 – repeated online for 2020

Elgin History Museum Project 321 Performance