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Maggi Vaughn: Poet Laureate of Tennessee

Updated on October 6, 2017
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Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Margaret Britton Vaughn


The Tennessee Poet Laureateship

Tennessee established the position of poet laureate in 1971 in the 87th General Assembly, House Joint Res. 115; 90th General Assembly, House Joint Res. 250; 99th General Assembly, House Joint Res. 133.

The first poet laureate was Richard M. "Pek" Gunn, who served from 1971 until 1994. In 1995, Maggi Vaughn was appointed Tennessee’s second poet laureate. Vaughn will retain this position for life; in 1999, the position was converted to a lifetime appointment.

Maggi Vaughn

Margaret Britton Vaughn was born in 1938 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Her family relocated to Gulfport, Mississippi, in the early 40s.

In 1965, after having grown up in Gulfport, Vaughn relocated back to her native state of Tennessee. Before devoting herself to writing full time, she served the field of journalism at several Nashville newspapers. She also taught school at the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

Vaughn has published nine books, including books of poetry, short stories, and children’s books. Her poetry has been printed in many magazines, journals, and newspapers. Her first critically acclaimed book of poetry, Fifty Years of Saturday Nights, was published in 1975 by Magluce Pub. Co.

Additional works include Grand Old Saturday Night, The Light in the Kitchen Window, and a play, I Wonder If Eleanor Roosevelt Ever Made a Quilt.

Vaughn's plays have been staged by the Nashville Barn Theatre, The Webb School, St. George Episcopal Church, the John Galt West End Theatre, and others.

The National Quilters Convention enjoyed her production, I Wonder If Eleanor Roosevelt Ever Made a Quilt.

Official Bicentennial Poem: "Who We Are"

Vaughn’s poem “Who We Are” retains the honor of being declared the official poem of Tennessee's Bicentennial, 1796-1996, by Public Chapter 337 of the 100th General Assembly. The following are the opening lines to the bicentennial poem:

The fertile soil of Tennessee
Grew more than corn, tobacco, and cotton,
It grew a crop of people who are
Trailblazers, child raisers, flag wavers, soul savers.

Tennessee’s Rich History

Along with the official bicentennial poem of Tennessee, Vaughn wrote “Mr. Tennessee Music Man,” the official poem for the Tennessee state quarter, released by U.S. Mint in 2002.

Vaughn also wrote the governor's inaugural poem, and a poem celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Air Force. She has appeared in programs on PBS, USA, TNN, TNT, and the BBC, and on many local radio and TV programs.

Vaughn praises as her inspiration Tennessee’s rich history, scenic beauty, and its down-to-earth people that have always captured her imagination, as she sometimes grows nostalgic in The Light in the Kitchen Window about by-gone eras: “Perhaps the greatest decisions / that have been made anywhere / came from men in overalls / around the courthouse square”; these lines open the poem, “The Old Courthouse Square” which goes on to describe a scene not likely to be observed in even the smallest town today.

Tennessee’s poet laureate is a genuine down-home girl, who still lives in a tiny town, a dot on the map about sixty miles southeast of Nashville, called Bell Buckle, Tennessee, where she operates Bell Buckle Press. She publishes other poets’ works as well as her own. She is renowned for welcoming visitors and swapping stories in her straw hat reminiscent of Minnie Pearl.

Maggi Vaughn's The Light in the Kitchen Window was published by Iris Press in Bell Buckle, TN, in 1994.

Reading and Interview

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


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