Last week, Carol Ann Duffy was chosen as the first female poet laureate of the United Kingdom, and next week, Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan is likely to become the first female poet laureate of Suffolk County. The county post, established in 2003, derives from the centuries-old British position held by such figures as Alfred Tennyson and William Wordsworth.
Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan, of Southampton, is founder and director of the North Sea Poetry Scene which offers poetry readings and publishes poetry. She is widely published. And she also holds down a job that some might consider unusual for an active poet: she is an accountant and certified tax consultant.
“I don’t see it as a conflict. I’m trying to utilize both sides of my brain,” she said with a laugh last week.Â
Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan is also a student in the Stony Brook Southampton Masters of Fine Arts Program in Writing and Literature. She teaches poetry through BOCES in schools in Suffolk and at the county jail. After receiving a degree from the Stony Brook Southampton graduate program, she intends to expand her teaching of poetry.
The Suffolk County Legislature is likely to vote on Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan’s two-year appointment at a meeting Tuesday in Hauppauge. She was chosen by a new panel comprised of former Suffolk poet laureates. It was set up after complaints about the former process of picking a poet laureate, especially from Shelter Islander Dr. Daniel Thomas Moran, who became county poet laureate in 2005. He was outraged by how his successor was selected and, disgusted with Suffolk County legislative politics, didn’t participate on the new panel.
Nevertheless, Brendan Stanton, an aide to Suffolk Legislator Wayne Horsley of Lindenhurst, who has overseen the poet laureate selection process, the selection of Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan “went very smoothly.”
Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan is thrilled with the prospects of becoming the Suffolk poet laureate. She says, “I want to make my tenure an act of service.” She would like to stress Suffolk’s rich history of poetry. This is the county where Walt Whitman was born (in West Hills) and where he worked for years including founding and being editor of the Long Islander, a still-published weekly newspaper in Huntington. Jupiter Hammon, a slave who was born and lived on Lloyd’s Neck in Huntington, is credited with being the first black American poet.
A major project of Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan has been collecting writings, audio recordings and videos of poets here with the dream of someday creating a Long Island Poetry Archive.
“I have over 1,000 books and audio and video in storage,” she notes. She envisions making this collection its base. The North Sea Poetry Scene has launched a capital campaign drive and has been writing grant proposals to set up such “an arts/archival” center “hopefully” within Southampton.Â
Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan, originally from Patchogue, is married to contractor Joseph Morgan, a Southampton native—indeed, they live in what had been his grandmother’s house on Woods Lane. They have two children, Vincent and Elizajo. A third, then 17-year-old son Michael, was tragically killed 13 years ago, mowed down by a car while walking across a street in Southampton near their home.
She graduated as an accounting and business administration major from Southampton College and received her Masters of Business Administration in banking/finance and management from Long Island University.
Books that Mrs. Nuzzo-Morgan has authored include One Woman’s Voice; For Michael; The Bitter, The Sweet; Let Me Tell You Something; Fleeting; and Would You Hug A Porcupine? Her poetry has been published in journals including Blue Sand Magazine, Proteus Anthology, Gertrude Magazine, Dream International, Writing to Heal, the Agulia Expression, The Write Way, The Rio Grande Press, Long Island Quarterly, Performing Poets Association Literary Review and Dream Long Island.
Although the poet laureate tradition began in the United Kingdom, there is a United States poet laureate and many states have poet laureates including New York. George Wallace of Huntington was Suffolk’s first poet laureate. He commented upon his appointment that “in a sense, artists—poets in particular, but artists more generally—might be seen as the Fifth Estate, providing a kind of psychic, spiritual reportage.”