His smile is contagious, broadcasting warmth throughout the empty spaces in between the DAC’s comfy couches and each of the relaxed club members. LBCC’s Poet Laureate Christopher Mikkelson, 26, welcomes the Poetry Club members with radiance and familiarity as they enter the Diversity Achievement Center for their Tuesday afternoon club meeting.
“He’s got a little bit of magic and I like that, I’m drawn to that,” said Robin Havenick, LBCC’s Poetry Club advisor.
Mikkelson, who’s only been attending LBCC for about a year and a half, took on the role as poet laureate in the fall term of 2016. With a new term and new students always ahead, the poet laureate organizes and leads campus poetry events, hosting the weekly club meetings, and being the face and advocate of the club.
Mikkelson’s role as poet laureate isn’t just about organizing events.
“At the national level,” Mikkleson said, “it is an honor for a fantastic artist in the form and that comes with the responsibility of being a supporter and a patron of that art form and encouraging its growth, encouraging people to enter into that art form confidently and to continue to develop themselves as well as to continue developing yourself as an artist well in it.”
“At the LBCC level, I take it exactly the same way.”
He is the center of a no-judgment space and takes pride in showing support and encouragement to anyone who steps in — and out — of Poetry Club.
“He is thoroughly engaged in the student body and that is extraordinary,” said Havenick. “That makes me feel strong and proud for the students on this campus — whether they know him or not, he’s standing up for them. It’s important for him that our students have a voice, and that makes me proud.”
When asked if being the poet laureate is a big responsibility, Mikkelson’s gentle smile embraced all uncertainty that may come along with the title.
“Art is big and art is small. It can make a large difference, even at the smallest amount in many people. So yeah, it’s something to be taken seriously — but not too seriously. I mean, it’s also just fun. Poetry is finding your own voice, and finding things to say with it is always going to be enjoyable,” said Mikkelson.
“And if it’s not, for goodness sakes, find a different art form,” he said with a laugh.
Taking on a structured leadership role — and rocking it — isn’t the only thing Mikkelson has had the chance to embrace. He has also made some really good friends along the way.
Ceph Poklemba, a member of the Poetry Club and now a good friend, met him at one of the club meetings sometime last year. Poklemba said Mikkelson’s tenacious personality is one of the things that he admires about his friend.
“He is very perseverant and he doesn’t tend to get that overwhelmed a lot of the time. He tends to handle himself very well,” said Poklemba. “I tend to challenge myself sometimes when I’m emulating him when I’m writing poetry to broaden my vocabulary or use words that I wouldn’t usually use… [Mikkelson] has a very eloquent sense of wording.”
Poklemba isn’t the only one that Mikkelson’s tenacious attitude has attracted. Lina Demorais, another member of the Poetry Club, said she admires Mikkelson’s “ability to engage multiple people and make them feel comfortable enough to engage in difficult topics.”
Throughout organizing and keeping up with poetry events, writing workshops, and club meetings, Mikkelson said the most rewarding part of being the poet laureate so far is “being able to see the community grow and the way that people are listening to each other and making that Poetry Club space a safe space and an accepting one.”
Story and Photo by Samantha Guy