Alumna Jennifer Tappenden: Poet, MasterMind

While an MFA in Creative Writing student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Jennifer Tappenden earned a prominent distinction. She was named UMSL’s first poet laureate.

UMSL alumna Jennifer Tappenden, MFA 2012

UMSL alumna Jennifer Tappenden, MFA 2012, was recently named a MasterMind by the Riverfront Times. (Photo by August Jennewein)

“It feels wonderful,” she said at the time. “Most poets are never recognized at all, so it’s quite an honor.”

Now a UMSL alumna, Tappenden has a new prestigious title: MasterMind. She was one of four St. Louis-area individuals to receive the annual designation by the Riverfront Times. In a profile that recently ran in the RFT, several of her poetry peers raved about her creative work and her role in ensuring other poets get their work read or heard. That included testimonials from John Dalton, director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at UMSL, and Shane Seely, assistant professor of English at UMSL.

“The qualities that made Jen a unanimous choice for the first UMSL poet laureate could best be described as charisma and integrity,” Dalton told the Riverfront Times. “There’s nothing pretentious about her passion for poetry; it’s authentic and strong and will last her entire life. As for integrity, Jen does exactly what she says she will do.” 

Seely, whose teaching focus is poetry, touted Tappenden for her selfless devotion to the craft.

“With her experience and her credentials, Jen might rightly have dominated our workshop, using her authority – she was very well-regarded by her peers – to shape the conversation. But she didn’t,” he said in the article. “She sat back and listened, piping up to underscore or complicate someone else’s idea. She wants very much to be a member of the community. She wants to work together.”

The RFT also highlighted Tappenden’s Architrave Press, which prints individual poems, and her work with River Styx and the St. Louis Poetry Center. Visit the Riverfront Times website to read the full article.


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