Poet Laureate Harmon Retires
February 19, 1979
Poet Laureate Harmon Retires
Dr. Louise McNeill Pease, a Lewisburg poet whose newest book will be used in West Virginia classrooms, has been named West Virginia's new poet laureate.
The announ[c]ement was made by Governor Rockefeller, who also announced that Roy Lee Harmon of Beckley, who has served as poet laureate for 41 years, will assume the title of poet laureate emeritus.
The governor said Dr. Pease, who writes under the name of Louise McNeill, will be installed formally in a ceremony this spring at the Cultural Center.
"I share a tremendous admiration for Louise McNeill's sensitive poetry. She's captured the cadence of the language and the history of our people in volumes of poetry which poignantly bespeak our heritage," Rockefeller said. "I deem it fitting that she chronicle the state she loves as its poet laureate."
Dr. Pease's newest book, Elderberry Flood, is the first book to be published by the state Department of Culture and History. It tells, in poetic form, the history of West Virginia from the time before it was settled up to modern times. The book, through a joint effort between the governor, the Department of Culture and History and the Department of Education, will be made available to all students studying West Virginia history.
Her published volumes of poetry include Mountain White, Gauley Mountain (which includes a foreword by Stephen Vincent Benet with jacket comments by Louis Untermeyer and Archibald MacLeish), Time Is Our House, From a Dark Mountain, Paradox Hill, From Appalachia to Lunar Shore (with jacket comments by Jesse Stuart and Louis Untermeyer), and The Great Kanawha River in the Old South.
In addition, she's had articles published in more than 19 magazines, among them American Mercury, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Saturday Review, Saturday Evening Post (over a 20-year period), Ladies Home Journal, Commonwealth, Appalachian Review, Good Housekeeping, and The Christian Science Monitor.
Dr. Pease, a native of Pocahontas County, received her early education in rural schools to which she later returned as a teacher. She earned degrees at Concord College (A.B.), Miami University of Ohio (M.A.), West Virginia University (Ph.D.), and also studied at Ohio University.
She taught for 30 years at schools including Aiken (S.C.) Preparatory School, West Virginia University, and Potomac State, Concord and Fairmont State colleges.
In 1973, Dr. Pease retired to devote time to her writing. She was honored by the West Virginia Society in Washington as the 1978 "West Virginia Daughter of the Year," at which Governor Rockefeller was named "Son of the Year."
Her other honors include an Atlantic Monthly poetry prize, and having a prize for poetry established in her name at Morris Harvey College.
Dr. Pease is married to Roger W. Pease, formerly of Ashfield, Mass. They have one son, Douglas, who lives in Storrs, Conn.
Arts and Entertainment