Annapolis’ first poet laureate wrote about longing and tragedy. What will the second say?

Annapolis is seeking a new poet laureate.

Temple Cone, the Naval Academy English professor appointed by Mayor Gavin Buckley in June 2018, wrapped up his role in December.


Before the city moves on when Mayor Gavin Buckley appoints a new poet, we asked Cone to recount some of his work as the first person to hold the job.

“I read this poem before City Council after Mayor Buckley formally appointed me Poet Laureate for Annapolis in June 2018. The poem is a villanelle, a French rhyming verse form, in which the first and third lines of the first stanza alternate as the concluding lines of each subsequent stanza, before coming together as a rhyming couplet at the end of the poem.


“At the time I wrote this poem, the Trump administration was pursuing its family separation policy to address immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, in spite of world protests. Like many others, I thought the events at the border marked the furthest limit of the President’s cruelty.

“Alas, it appears that poets should keep to poetry, not prophecy.”

Poem of Longing and Defiance

I long to write one poem that could save

The past — each sunlit crib, first kiss, embrace

A child gives at night—keep it from memory’s grave.

Poem of honey, poem of healing, a salve

For wounds, sweetness where healing takes place.

I long to write one poem that could save


The lives of children, the love their parents gave

The moment air first touched each newborn face,

A poem to snatch such moments from the grave.

Imagine you’re in a shipwreck. A wave

Sweeps every person you love into frigid seas.

I long to write one poem that could save


You from having to choose who would survive

The arctic night in the narrow raft of mercy.

Picture border families, pulled apart. A grave

Folly shames padres, slights madres’ brave

But futile cries, blasts the ninos’ pleas.

I long to write one poem that could save


Rude, laurelled love from the tyrannous grave.

“On the day of the shootings at the Capital Gazette in 2018, I was asked by the Mayor to deliver a poem the next night at a city-wide vigil in memory of the victims. I accepted, and as I scribbled my lines, I began wondering how the day of the shootings would be remembered in later years. Would we recall its horror? The community solidarity it generated? Could my poem offer consolation for the community’s grief? And should it?

“For if grief were assuaged, might we lose the spirit of reform born from grief — reform of ill-considered gun laws, of hyper-reactive attitudes toward the press, of a benumbed acceptance of violence against our fellow citizens, be they neighbor or stranger?

“Out of those questions, this poem emerged. It is written in hymnal stanza, and while it strives for solace in its penultimate stanza, it tries to keep the wound open in its closing lines, so that in remembering the horror, we might not forget to stand against it.

“The next evening, in what would be my first public act as the inaugural Poet Laureate for the city of Annapolis, I read “The Day Would Be Remembered,” before hundreds at a candlelight vigil at the City Docks.”

The Day Would Be Remembered

The phones screamed all afternoon,


family calling family,

each lover their beloved one.

The blue sky was empty,

save a few clouds that held

no promise of cleansing rain.

For an hour, each heart swelled


with grief for a stranger’s pain,

then sank into silence,

lacking words to shield

a fragile innocence.

When crows at last had wheeled

home to the full-leafed trees,


life crept back in. Children

played baseball, the wheels

of a fallen bike spun

in the breeze, and those who lived

greeted others warmly.

The day would be remembered


as one when family

called family, each lover

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their beloved one.

But none would forget, ever,

how the phones screamed all afternoon.

Are you the next poet?

The Art in Public Places Commission will select a poet who lives, works or attends school in Annapolis, is at least 18 years old. Aspiring poets laureate should submit five poems and two short essays. Nominations will also be accepted.


“Especially in this difficult time, our city poet will serve to inspire and support a sense of humanity and belonging through the reading and writing of poetry,” said Genevieve Torri, chair of the commission.

The Poet Laureate will serve a one-year term starting April 1, renewable for a second year, and is encouraged to nurture an appreciation of poetry and literature by conducting public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations in neighborhoods, schools, institutions of higher learning, and other public settings in geographically diverse areas of the city. The Poet Laureate will receive an annual honorarium of $500.

Further information, including guidelines and an application/nomination form for the position, is available at