It's safe to say that 2020 has been a very difficult, trying year for a lot of people across the world. Wyoming's Poet Laureate, Eugene Gagliano, agrees. But the pandemic also made him realize a different perspective—how grateful he was to be living in the state of Wyoming.
He shared his perspective by writing a poem, called The Blessing of Wyoming. And it got published in the New York Times. He recited the poem during his conversation with Wyoming Public Radio's Naina Rao.
The Blessing of Wyoming
are grateful having been spared
much of the suffering.
We enjoyed fresh air outdoors,
free to roam vast grasslands,
massive mountains carved by nature,
furrowed deep canyons, and valleys
sewn together by icy streams.
We watched herds
of mountain reigning elk
and prairie pronghorn.
Each new day was a gift.
Even the drought and winds
couldn't dry out our spirit.
Board games, puzzles and books
became important again.
We looked after each other
neighbor helping neighbor
despite long distances.
We nourished our faith and
appreciated more family time.
We reached out to old friends
became even more aware of
the people and the natural
blessings of Wyoming."
- Eugene Gagliano, Wyoming's Poet Laureate
Naina Rao: So I want to know what really made you write the poem? How did you come up with it?
Eugene Gagliano: Well, first of all, one of the things I do often is that I walk each day, or at least five days a week, and I go down to Clear Creek, which is at the base of the Big Horn mountains. And it's beautiful, and I'm so grateful to have it. And I just started putting my thoughts together. So what am I really thankful for, and what other people around me [are] thankful for? And the ones I've talked to, whether they were ill or not, just agreed that we are fortunate that we hadn't been touched by the virus as much as some people across the country. And that we were not confined to apartments, the majority of us are not confined to an apartment or in, in a city where we can't get out. I mean, we have all this space. And one of the things that since I moved here, it's like, the people here are just so caring. We help each other out. And that's what we've been doing. So I thought I just started putting all of these thoughts together. And then I went home and just kind of sketched it out.
NR: So I'm curious, when your poem got published, what - how did you feel?
EG: Well, I was happy. You know, I thought, well, that's kind of neat. It's always nice to have your work recognized. And then I thought, well, good. This gets out there and people can have a different viewpoint maybe of Wyoming.
NR: You're originally from Niagara Falls.
EG: Mm-hmm. Born and raised there.
NR: What was the decision? What made you decide to move to Wyoming?
EG: For two years or two summers, when I was in college, I went on a traveling summer camp for boys. And while the first year we went Southwest, and we put 11,000 miles on the cars, camped at national parks, and we did the same thing the next year. We went Northwest. And after having seen the West, I was hooked. And so my wife and I, I told her, I said you're gonna love this, you got to see it. So I took her out the next summer. And she agreed she wants to live out here, [it] was beautiful, fresh air, blue skies.
And we looked around and I started writing letters to different chambers of commerce. I wanted to be in a place where there was fresh water, clean air, lots of beautiful mountains. And we started sending them out and it just happened, it fell into place. I got a call from Buffalo. And they said, 'If you come out here, we'd be more than interested in having you teach probably.' And I said, 'Oh, sure, no problem.' And I did and I fell in love with it. And I passed my test. And next thing you know, I was out here.
NR: I also forgot to ask - how are you doing during this pandemic?
EG: I'm doing well. I try to call lots of people. Make sure they're doing okay. And we have helped out some other folks here that needed help. Passing it along seems to be a big thing here in Wyoming, you know, someone does something good for you, says thanks, and then pass it along to somebody else. And I've learned that ever since I moved here. It makes you feel good to make somebody else smile or just be more upbeat. Because if we don't it just drags you down. And you know, you only get one life, you know, make the best of it.
NR: So what's next? What are you working on? What do you want to do? What's gonna happen?
EG: Well as a poet laureate, my job, and even if it wasn't my job, I get out there and I go to lots of schools and promote reading and writing and poetry. And, just getting other people excited about writing and showing them that they can do it. Show them, they got thoughts, worthwhile thoughts. A lot of people say they don't have anything to write about, but they do. And I just try to bring it out of them. Especially kids. I love kids.