Meet Milford's first poet laureate

Milford’s first poet laureate will make his first public appearance, and present his first city-themed poem, Monday night at Milford’s Board of Aldermen’s meeting.

Michael Thibodeau, who goes by Mick Theebs, is only 24 years old. But with a sizeable collection of poems, short stories, paintings and other evidence of his artistic talent, he impressed city officials who have been looking since the beginning of the year for someone to serve as Milford’s official poet.

Thibodeau was the unanimous choice of the selection committee, according to Christine Angeli, director of the Milford Library.

“His work is engaging, thought provoking and original, and he presented many wonderful ideas for projects to increase awareness of poetry in the Milford community,” Angeli said. “The committee was impressed with his passion and involvement with all manners of artistic endeavors and we look forward to seeing what he accomplishes as Milford's first poet laureate.”

A 2013 graduate of Northeastern University, Thibodeau holds a degree in English. He started writing when he attended Jonathan Law High School, and he credits some of his English teachers there with turning him onto the written word: Donna Pallanti and Jacqueline Kiraly. “They were very inspirational,” he said.

Thibodeau’s work has been published in online literary magazines and ejournals, and he’s published many of his own poems on his own website, which is called Also That.

He describes his poetry as cathartic. “It’s more visceral, pessimistic,” he said. “My dad calls it, ‘My rants’.”
One of his pieces, Don’t Listen to the Bleeding Hearts, begins like this: “Don't listen to the bleeding hearts and romantics and university students. Art is as commonplace as a phone call to an old friend.”

And it ends like this: “Unable to cope with the everyday wretchedness of humanity and are thus forced to ram their head into the wall repeatedly in an attempt to make it more beautiful with their blood. … And for one shimmering second, it's gold.”

His favorite poets are Charles Bukowski and William Blake.

Thibodeau said his short stories tend to be dark.

“I think there’s a lesson to be learned in pessimism,” he said. “In comedy, with happy endings, you don’t learn anything. In tragedies, people learn a lesson, but too late. I guess I’m trying to teach people a lesson.”

He prefers to list his favorite books rather than his favorite authors: The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men. But he will name his favorite authors if asked: Vonnegut and Huxley.

When he started writing fiction, he tended toward science and fantasy, but as he’s grown, he said he focuses more on stories that put ordinary people in desperate situations, situations that test their morality and focus on the choices they make.

Milford’s poet laureate has a day job: He works for a New Haven-based surgical equipment company, and he said he’s basically a “paper pusher.” His ultimate goal is to make a living with his art and his words, but for now, pushing paper pays the bills.

Thibodeau said he’s honored to be Milford’s first poet laureate, a non-paid post that will require him to pen several poems a year for key city events. While some of his work is dark, he said that which he pens for the city will likely be different, with specific subject matters and tones that will probably vary from serious to light.

He applied for the four-year position because his father read about it and suggested he apply.

The application noted that the role of the City of Milford Poet Laureate is to “elevate poetry in the consciousness of Milford, CT residents and to help celebrate the literary arts.”

The poet laureate “will act as an advocate for poetry, literature, and the arts, and contribute to the City of Milford’s poetry and literary legacy through public readings and participation in civic events,” the description continues.

Mayor Ben Blake, Angeli and the Milford Arts Council Director Paige Miglio led the effort to name a poet laureate, pointing out that some other cities have appointed poet laureates. They said the job will be largely open to the interpretation of the person holding the position.

On his father’s suggestions, Thibodeau said he’d like one of his first pieces to be a poem for Veteran’s Day. Other than that, he expects he will be tapped to write for inaugurations and other formal events. He said he will probably write a poem in memory of Maren Sanchez, the Jonathan Law High School student murdered at her school by a fellow student in 2014.

Thibodeau said he wants to organize a regular open mic night for people to read their writing and to organize a writing group for people to meet and hone their craft. He started a successful writer’s group when he was at Northeastern.

“It would also be great to work with the school system to get a student writing group going as well,” he said.

Mayor Ben Blake will announce Thibodeau’s appointment at Monday’s (tonight’s) Board of Aldermen’s meeting, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at Milford City Hall. Thibodeau said he will have a poem ready.