Margaret "Peggy" Rozga is the Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2019-2020. A native of Milwaukee, Rozga is a poet, playwright and emerita professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha where she taught creative writing and multicultural literature. She received the University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin Extension Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2007. She continues to teach a poetry workshop for Continuing Education at what is now the UW Milwaukee–Waukesha campus.
Rozga’s poems draw on her experiences and interests as an educator, avid reader and researcher, parent, and advocate for social and racial justice. Her first book, 200 Nights and One Day (Benu Press, 2009), began as a play, March On Milwaukee: A Memoir of the Open Housing Protests. She wrote the play to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1967-68 successful struggle in Milwaukee for local and national fair housing legislation. She had been a member of the Milwaukee NAACP Youth council that led those marches. After the play premiered at UW Waukesha and had three subsequent productions in Milwaukee, Rozga recast the material into poems so that it could have wider circulation. The book was awarded a bronze medal in poetry in the 2009 Independent Publishers Book Awards and named an outstanding achievement in poetry for 2009 by the Wisconsin Library Association.
Rozga has published three additional collections of poems. Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad (Benu Press 2012) features poems responding to her Army Reservist son’s deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. It was named an outstanding achievement in poetry for 2012 by the Wisconsin Library Association. Justice Freedom Herbs (Word Tech Press 2015)is a book of garden poems that suggest social justice themes. The two concerns are closely linked, and each becomes a way of talking about the other. These mostly free verse poems conjure up family, the poet’s personal past, and larger issues of history, all within the framework of Rozga’s close and empathetic skill of observation. Her most recent book,Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems (Lit Fest Press 2017), looks at issues of women’s roles, western expansion, and race as they are woven through the life of politically active and well-connected Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902).
In addition to her own books, Rozga has served as an editor for three poetry chapbook anthology projects, most recently Where I Want to Live: Poems for Fair and Affordable Housing (Little Bird Press 2018), a project of the 50th anniversary commemoration of Milwaukee’s fair housing marches. Her poetry craft essays have appeared in the Whale Road Review, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Museletter, and other venues. She has collaborated with visual artists and other poets in eight collaborative exhibits.
The editors at Nimrodnominated her work for inclusion in the 2005 Best New Poets anthology, an award for poets who have not yet published a book. Her essay, “Community Inclusive: A Poetics to Move Us Forward,” published in the 2012 issue of Verse Wisconsin and reprinted in Local Grounds: Midwestern Poetics (Cow Feather Press 2015) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
As part of her service to the poetry community in Wisconsin and beyond, Rozga reviews poetry books. She also has served as a judge for poetry and writing contests for Wisconsin Writers Association, Waukesha Writers Group, the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature’s Midwest Poetry Festival and Maricopa (Arizona) Community Colleges. She serves on the program committee for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. She especially enjoys offering poetry workshops for middle and high school students.