The Central Library in downtown Milwaukee hosted the inaugural reading from the 2019-2021 Poet Laureate, Dasha Kelly Hamilton, on November 10 in the Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room to a packed crowd.

During the program, several local creative artists expressed their poetry in spoken word presentations. Combined with the social messages were their deep thanks and gratitude to Dasha, for her personal support and work across the community. Her husband, Kima Hamilton, also participated in one of the poetry sessions.

“It was important to me to not just share my work, but to share what this journey has meant to me. And to share as best as I’ve experienced it, how this journey happened,” said Dasha. “If I said, ‘this was always a plan,’ I’d be telling a lie to everyone. It was just being obedient to the things that never made sense. It was being honest about the words that I absorbed, the words that I shared, and the words that I decided to claim as true.”

Dasha told the audience that to strive, be passionate, and to be connected to so many phenomenal human beings was the motivation behind each step she took to move forward. She also noted that the city of Milwaukee was not known for encouraging people, until after they were successful and such support was less necessary. But Dasha promised that “together we will make the city acknowledge our words.”

The Milwaukee Public Library’s Poet Laureate project was initiated in February 2000 to serve as a leading example locally of the poetic voice of their genre for a two-year term. The poet laureate makes several guest appearances during the term, promoting poetry throughout the community.

Dasha has used her words and art as tools for building inspiration in Milwaukee. She founded the non-profit Still Waters Collective, that has created training experience for young teaching artists and a community of urban art-ivists. Through that organization, she has curated poetry programming and spoken word events in the region for almost 20 years. The work has impacting more than 13,000 youth, provided professional development to more than 100 young people and created platforms for thousands of voices to be honored and heard.

“So imagine an intentional conversation when you just leave space for questions and invite people to think together,” said Dasha. “hat’s what we’re going to do for these next two years. With me as your Poet Laureate, we’re going to think together, we’re going to talk together, and we’re going to use the beauty of poetry and lyricism. And the conundrum and the questions of how to puzzle those words together, is the puzzling part where the art is. The poems that we all read and celebrate is the proof of the work we love.”

Through responsive and respectful intentionality, Dasha leverages the creative process to facilitate critical dialogues around human and social wellness. Dasha delivers her engagement sessions to campuses, classrooms, correctional institutions, association conferences, social service agencies, municipal departments and team retreats. Dasha also served as an Arts Envoy for the U.S. Embassy to teach, perform and facilitate community building initiatives in Botswana and the island of Mauritius.

“One of the most exciting things I’m most proud of are the human beings and the friendships and the partnerships and the projects and the failed efforts and the amazing successes that happened with humans in this room,” added Dasha. “And I am appreciate all of you being here today. But mostly, I appreciate all of you being here with me throughout this journey.”


I see you
Trying to snip yourself
Free from the clash of fabric patterns
Outsized the outline of your fierce and stunning soul
Coast be not ocean
Edge be not your end
I smell the salt water in your conversation
A slow leak of truth from the corners of your grin

I see you
Fumbling to wrap yourself
In the wind
But I know a costume
When I see one
You carve your journey through fire
Blaze ash compacting in your chest
Footsteps forged into scorched Earth rising like breaths of sage
Glancing backwards will always be an inclination
Forward is your instinct

I see you
Hobbling together a truth of your own
Reconsidering the broken pieces
Polishing the gemstones in your scars
You are incomplete and you are the universe
You are an ever evolution
Ever evolution