Mason Alumna Is New Virginia Poet Laureate

Posted: June 30, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
Photo courtesy Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Poet Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda admits that she doesn’t know how to be retired, and it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down for her anytime soon.

Gov. Timothy Kaine appointed Kreiter-Foronda to the post of Virginia poet laureate, and she will travel to Richmond next week to be sworn in.

Kreiter-Foronda spent 31 years working with Fairfax County Public Schools in a number of capacities before retiring with her husband, Patricio, to a home on the water in Middlesex County. For years she taught at West Springfield High School while taking course after course at George Mason part-time.

“I knew I wanted to get my master’s degree in literature, but they kept adding new courses and degree programs, and I kept taking them,” she says. As a result, Kreiter-Foronda holds three graduate degrees from Mason. She earned her master of education in 1973 and her master of arts in English in 1979.

“Then one of my good friends told me about [poet] Peter Klappert and said I had to take a class with him,” she says. “It changed my life. I truly consider him my mentor.”

Kreiter-Foronda enrolled in Mason’s first doctoral program, working toward a doctor of arts in education. Because of the earlier course work for her M.Ed. she was able to devote more of her class time to her writing, working with Klappert and a number of award-winning poets.

“It was such an exciting time at the university,” she says. “They were bringing in big names writers from across the country.” Some of the writers she got to study with while at Mason include Donald Justice, Margaret Atwood, Maxine Kumin and Ai.

In 1983, Kreiter-Foronda was awarded the very first doctoral degree given by the university. “It was a wonderful occasion,” she says of her commencement. Kreiter-Foronda is still tickled by the fact that she shares a milestone with her alma mater and shows up on university timelines, most recently in the Mason Spirit.

Since that time, she has published four books of poetry, “Contrary Visions,” “Gathering Light,” “Death Comes Riding” and “Greatest Hits.” Her work has appeared widely in magazines and journals, including Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner and Antioch Review.

She is a also sculptor and painter, combining her love of poetry with the visual arts by conducting art-inspired writing workshops for teachers and the general public in museums and galleries such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

She credits her abilities as a writing instructor to the time she spent with the Northern Virginia Writing Project, working with its founders Chris Thaiss and Don Gallehr. Kreiter-Foronda attended the NVWP’s first summer institute in 1978. “Chris and Don have shared their expertise with so many appreciative teachers.”

Kreiter-Foronda is currently helping edit an instructional guide to accompany a DVD on Virginia Poet Laureates from 1996-2004 and has established a Poetry-in-the-Schools Program through the Poetry Society of Virginia to promote poetry at all instructional levels. In 1992, she was named a Virginia cultural laureate for her contributions to American literature.

Kreiter-Foronda also feels strongly about helping other writers. In every presentation or reading she gives, she makes an effort to mention other poets, read their work and share copies of their books with the audience.

“I love teaching. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with others and talk about the things I love,” she says. “I see this appointment as an invaluable opportunity to promote poetry on a large scale.”

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