A long, long time ago – 2012 – I took a Paradise Valley Community College class called Creative Writing. Little did I know that the assignments posted in that class would launch me into one of my favorite hobbies, and eventually, my career.
The professor of that class, Lois Roma-Deeley, had a hand in shaping and sharpening my writing skills, and I value these immensely. So, when Roma-Deeley’s name popped up on Scottsdale’s website with news that she had been selected as Scottsdale’s new poet laureate, I knew I had to reach out to show that her teaching has stuck with me, all these years later.
Roma-Deeley is not an Arizona native – her New York accent is a dead giveaway – but she has called Scottsdale home for over four decades. She and her husband moved west from Long Island for work and school opportunities.
“My accent comes in handy, as my students and colleagues think I’m tough,” she laughed.
Roma-Deeley is not only an educator; she has worn many hats throughout her career.
She published four poetry books and founded and directed the creative writing and women’s studies programs at PVCC. She has served as a contest judge, publisher, public speaker and is currently the associate editor of Presence, an international poetry journal.
With these titles also comes a collection of accolades, including the winner of the Jacopone da Todi Book Prize, Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist, an Arizona Commission on the Arts grant and being a four-time recipient of Ragdale Residency Fellowships.
“My poems have been featured in numerous literary journals and anthologies, nationally and internationally. I’ve read my work at colleges, universities, museums, galleries, arts organizations and community centers around the country,” Roma-Deeley said.
She was also named U.S. Professor of the Year, Community College, by the Carnegie Foundation in Advancement of Teaching and CASE in 2012-13.
But before all the glitz and glamour, she was a student at Arizona State. She graduated with a Master in Fine Arts in Poetry before heading to The Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a primary emphasis on poetry.
She’s taught at PVCC, where she is Professor Emerita, ASU and Northern Arizona University, and she had a residency at Bowling Green University in Ohio. With credentials like these, one can see that she’ll fill the previous poet laureate’s shoes just fine.
Roma-Deeley found out about the position through one of her former students, and it piqued her interest.
“It has always been a privilege to actively contribute to our literary community at local, state and national levels. The position of poet laureate, which is a four-year term, has many opportunities for me to be an active literary arts advocate and engage the public in meaningful ways,” she said.
After an extensive application process, Roma-Deeley also had to submit a video recording of a poetry reading, a 1,000-word proposal of how she would engage with the public as the city’s poet laureate, samples of workshops or projects, a 500-word description of her connection to Scottsdale and five of her poems. She was appointed poet laureate at a public ceremony in late September. Roma-Deeley’s responsibilities include reading poems at ceremonial or literary events, such as building or public art unveilings, council meetings, and art or community events. Each year, she presents a commemorative poem at the annual State of the City event and works with Scottsdale Arts and the Scottsdale Public Library on various events.
“It has been my pleasure to call Scottsdale home for more than four decades and to represent the city in my professional and personal life. As poet laureate, I bring Scottsdale my experiences as a poet, editor, educator and will continue to contribute to our literary community at local, state and national levels,” Roma-Deeley said.
After her poet laureate term is complete, Roma-Deeley plans to continue writing, editing and teaching. And with her shared knowledge, I plan to do the same (minus the teaching!).