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English Professor Nicole Tong Named Inaugural Fairfax Poet Laureate

Nicole Tong, NOVA Faculty

NOVA is pleased to announce that Nicole Tong, an English professor who has been with the college for thirteen years, has been selected as ARTSFAIRFAX’s first ‘Fairfax Poet Laureate.’ Tong, well known for managing NOVA’s ‘Power Up Your Pedagogy’ (PUP) Conference over the last two years also serves as the college coordinator for CETL (Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning). The Fairfax Poet Laureate is Fairfax County’s highest honor awarded to a local poet. In Tong’s two-year term as a laureate, she will engage with the community through education and community service activities.

Tong’s service project for ARTSFAIRFAX will amplify living poets and poetry communicated via her Twitter handle @PoetryLivesHere. Tong has been honored with fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and George Mason University, which is where she received a Master of Fine Arts.

In 2016, Tong served as an inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Pope-Leighey House, a Frank Lloyd Wright Property. Her writing and featured works have appeared in many publications such as: the American Book Review; CALY, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women; Cortland Review; Yalobusha Review and others. The Washington Writers’ Publishing House selected Tong’s first collection of poems ‘How to Prove a Theory’ for its 2017 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize winner.

“Being named the inaugural Fairfax Poet Laureate offers me an extraordinary opportunity to share poetry, which I love, write and teach, with my community,” says Tong. “At the end of my tenure, I will have done my work if county residents understand that poetry and poets are alive in the here and now; they are not just documented in canonical books. I look forward to sharing my work and the voices of other living poets, which reflect the diverse, lived experiences of all of us.”

Tong’s vision for tenure began within her NOVA classrooms where she offers a living poets pedagogy and opportunities for her students to engage with writers of the genre in real-world settings such as the National Book Festival, George Mason University’s Fall for the Book, as well as open mic nights. This year, she presented the benefits of teaching living poets with inaugural poet Richard Blanco and fellow author Jose Olivarez at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Co-presenters and fellow educators Melissa Smith, founder of the #TeachLivingPoets movement on Twitter and Scott Bayer, co-founder of #TheBookChat, will join her in offering professional development to Fairfax educators as part of this project. Tong says, “It was my experience hearing and meeting poets in person while I was an undergraduate at Davidson College that made me want to be a writer. Because the Davidson reading series was so rich, it exposed me to writers who, like me, were the first in their families to attend college. It planted a seed of possibility that led me both to writing and teaching as a vocation.”

“A Fairfax County Poet Laureate program has been the dream of many for some years” says Linda Sullivan, ARTSFAIRFAX President & CEO. “Former Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova asked ARTSFAIRFAX to develop the program and the County officially endorsed it this past fall. ARTSFAIRFAX is investing in this program to identify and celebrate talented poets in our community and to create opportunities for county residents to encounter poetry in their daily lives.”

The Fairfax Poet Laureate was selected through a competitive process by a distinguished panel, which included Grace Cavalieri (Maryland Poet Laureate), Anya Creightney (poet and program manager, Library of Congress), Kim Roberts (poet and editor, Beltway Poetry), Gregg Wilhelm (director, GMU Creative Writing Program).

“Poetry, as an art form, gives us the means to see things in a new light and an opportunity to engage in conversations as a community. ARTSFAIRFAX is committed to making all art forms accessible to a wider community,” says Shelly Hazel, chair, ARTSFAIRFAX Board of Directors.

To read more of Tong’s work, visit www.nicoletong.com. Additional information on the Fairfax Poet Laureate community engagement will be posted on the ARTSFAIRFAX Facebook and Twitter accounts and on the website at artsfairfax.org.

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About ARTSFAIRFAX ARTSFAIRFAX is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization, incorporated in 1964, as Fairfax County’s designated local arts agency. ARTSFAIRFAX is funded in part by Fairfax County, corporations, foundations, individuals, Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.

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