Ken McCullough doesn't like to be in the limelight - not many poets do, he says.

Nevertheless, there he is. McCullough has been chosen by the Winona Fine Arts Commission to be Winona's new poet laureate.

The poet laureate is in charge of promoting poetry in Winona by holding public readings, hosting a poetry workshop and any other ways he chooses. Previous laureate James Armstrong will hand over the title Oct. 27.

"There is a great deal of magic in the process in writing and reciting poetry," McCullough said. "I want to get poetry out of the closet and have it become a force in our lives as it used to be."

McCullough has been writing poetry since he was 14 years old. He was known for being an athlete, so when he had to

re-write a greek myth in his own way, McCullough was a little worried. But after seeing his finished work, he fell in love with the art.

"It was at a time when not any of us were encouraged to be poets," he said.

Now, he bases his writing on what he sees - his family, his house and other books he reads. He scribbles down a few words whenever they come to him, and when he gets a few spare minutes, McCullough hides away in his office to make the words into poetry.

He is also the director of Saint Mary's University's Path to Academic Success program and is in charge of students on academic probation.

Choosing who gets the title isn't easy for the Winona Fine Arts Commission, which accepted nominations from August through September. A panel of three officials reads over the five applicants' work and discussed their accomplishments.

They decided on McCullough, partly because "(he) believes strongly in poetry," said Carol Borzyskowski, spokeswoman for the commission. "He is really involved in arts and promoting them."

Winona became just the third city in the state to have a poet laureate when it elected its first head poet two years ago. Now larger cities are calling to ask how the commission started the process.

McCullough's priority is to encourage children to write poetry. "It's like a prayer," he said. "Even if one doesn't believe in prayer, poems are powerful."

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