Margaret Rozga

2019 - 2020 Wisconsin Poet Laureate

Life-long Wisconsin resident Margaret Rozga, Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2019–2020, lives in Milwaukee. She earned her BA at Alverno College and an MA and PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. An emeritus professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Waukesha, she continues to teach a poetry workshop for Continuing Education at what is now the UWM–Waukesha campus.

Rozga’s poems draw on her experiences and interests as an educator, avid reader and researcher, parent, and advocate for social and racial justice. Her first book, 200 Nights and One Day (Benu Press 2009), was awarded a bronze medal in poetry in the 2009 Independent Publishers Book Awards and named an outstanding achievement in poetry for 2009 by the Wisconsin Library Association.

Rozga has published three additional collections of poems:  

  • Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad (Benu Press 2012), named an outstanding achievement in poetry for 2012 by the Wisconsin Library Association; 
  • Justice    Freedom    Herbs (Word Tech Press 2015); 
  • Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems (Lit Fest Press 2017). Research for Pestiferous Questions was supported by a creative writer’s fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society. 

Rozga has also been a resident at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology and at the Ragdale Foundation. Her work was nominated for inclusion in the 2005 Best New Poets anthology and for a Pushcart Prize.

Rozga served as an editor for three poetry chapbook anthology projects, most recently Where I Want to Live: Poems for Fair and Affordable Housing (Little Bird Press 2018), a project of the 50th anniversary commemoration of Milwaukee’s fair housing marches. Her poetry craft essays have appeared in the Whale Road Review, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Museletter and other venues. Her poems have been included in eight collaborative exhibits with visual artists and other poets.

Rozga reviews poetry books and has served as a judge for poetry and writing contests for in Wisconsin and nationally. She serves on the program committee for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. She especially enjoys offering poetry workshops for middle and high school students.

Wisconsin Poet Laureate Plans & Project(s)

“I love the vibrant community of poetry readers and writers in Wisconsin,” says Rozga. I”n the spirit and with the enthusiasm of past poet laureates, I want to continue helping that community grow. Poets who write from a deeply felt sense of what enriches our lives make those qualities palpable for all of us. I look forward to sharing and extending this love of poetry throughout Wisconsin.”

Rozga envisions three main ways to share her enthusiasm for poetry and grow interest in poetry in Wisconsin. One is an initiative to encourage public officials, business and community leaders, those attending poet laureate readings, and people generally to “Name Your Fave,” that is, claim a favorite poem or poet. It is a way to start poetry conversations that go beyond a response Rozga often hears: “Poetry? I don’t get it.” She believes it is a way to begin to realize that yes, you do; yes, you can.

Another way Rozga sees to further the reading of poetry is to encourage existing book clubs to have at least one meeting each year focused on poetry. She will also build a Wisconsin poetry presence on social media, using, for example, Twitter to spread the word about Wisconsin poets, poetry events, and the “Name your Fave” initiative and to connect with ongoing poetry-related threads.

About Margaret Rozga’s Poetry

Wendy Vardaman, past poet laureate of Madison writes that Rozga’s poetry “is both personal and communal, and above all, purposeful."

Chicago poet Martha Vertreace-Doody says of Rozga’s poems: “Each voice speaks with immediacy impossible to ignore.”

Chloe Yelena Miller, reviewing Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad notes that "Rozga gives us poetry and news together in this beautiful, meaningful book.”

Reviewer Kathleen Fagley praises Pestiferous Questions, concluding that Rozga “is more than successful in melding voices, modes of writing, language, image, and personal and political history in this impressive book of poetry.”

Mark Zimmerman also writing about Pestiferous Questions, says: “Because Rozga is such a skilled poet and storyteller, multifaceted lives of people gradually emerge as the book progresses”

Poet Laureate Service Date: 

January, 2019 to December, 2020