Pam McLoughlin

New Haven Register

MILFORD >> At just 24, Michael Thibodeau, pen name Mick Theebs, has been named the city’s first poet laureate, and his inaugural poem states, in part:

“Here I am, Milford.

A volunteer foot soldier

in the culture wars,

to lead the charge

with pen, not sword.

I can’t promise plunder or glory

in the thousand days to come.

I don’t know if it will be pretty,

But I promise it will be fun.’’

Thibodeau/Theebs grew up in Milford, graduating from Jonathan Law High School, and majored in English at Northeastern University, where he started and led a writing club, and trained his successor. The club is still going strong.

The poet laureate program is a collaboration of the Milford Arts Council and Milford Public Library. Theebs’ volunteer position is for four years.

“We established the new position of poet laureate to further promote the arts in the city,’’ said Mayor Benjamin G. Blake.

Theebs was chosen, in part, because his application proposed “enhancing poetry by engaging Milford in poetry contests, workshops and open mics, as well as spearheading an effort to help install poetry as visual art in community spaces,” Blake said.

Theebs, a longtime writer who started with short stories and calls fiction “dear to my heart,” has been writing poetry for 10 years and said he loves it.

“Poetry comes naturally to me when I have strong feelings,” he said. “It’s like a catharsis. It’s a way to sort of release strong feelings.

“Photography captures an image frozen in time using light. Poetry captures a feeling frozen in time using words,” Theebs said.

Theebs, who describes his job now as being a “paper pusher” at a company unrelated to his field, said he began his career wanting to become a professional writer, but has since developed an interest in teaching after working with young people at the YMCA and feeling fulfilled.

Becoming the city’s first poet laureate is scary, he said, but exciting, too and, “it’s also the craziest thing that’s happened to me.”

His poetry is “personal,” Theebs said, “It’s almost like writing a diary for me.”

“It’s hard to give a piece of yourself,” Theebs said. “You have to be vulnerable and share it with other people.”

In his official role, while he’ll be writing about happy and sometimes not-so-joyful happenings in Milford, the works will always carry a piece of him as the writer.

His father, also named Michael - which is partly why he chose a pen name - is a disabled Air Force veteran and has already asked him to write something for Veterans Day.

Theebs would also like to write a poem on an anniversary or birthday about Maren Sanchez, a close friend of his sister who was fatally stabbed two years ago at Jonathan Law High School.

Theebs, who is also an artist on canvas, said his parents wouldn’t think of themselves as artists, but they really are in their own ways. “They can definitely think like artists.” One of his sisters teaches art at a school.

While he cannot measure his success as a poet by how many works he’s had published or by awards — as it was never important to him to pursue those avenues — Pheebs said his poetry has received great feedback at readings.

A major thrust of his role, as he outlined in his application, will be to start a writing group that includes poetry and other forms of writing. Part of it will include him leading workshops, Theebs said. While he is still working out those details, Theebs said anyone interested can contact him at milfordpoetlaureate@gmail.com.

To learn more about Theebs and his artistry, visit www.alsothat.com.

“Thankfully, I’m inspired a lot,” Theebs said. “I write a lot. Sometimes it just comes out of me fully formed.”

Theebs said he’s honored to be part of history as the city’s first poet laureate.

“I feel like big things are coming,” Theebs said.

His introductory poem, which he read at the aldermanic meeting begins:

“Here I am, Milford.

The prodigal son returned

Filthy and penniless,

To cleanse myself

in your pure winds

and brackish waters.

Here I am, Milford.

Do you recognize me?

I’ve grown since I left

to see the wonders of the world

through a haze of mist and smoke.

But even through the throaty Russian toasts

and pressure cooker explosions,

I heard you whisper my name every night,

wondering when I was coming back to you.”

(It ends with the verse written above.)