Vaughn finds her calling in writing, gives readers the freedom to interpret

W hen I was a little girl, I remember my father had a subscription to Reader’s Digest and there was a regular article called “My Most Unforgettable Character.” Tennessee’s Poet Laureate, Margaret “Maggi” Vaughn, fits this description.

A quote from Maggi is a perfect way to introduce her: “I was a product of the ’50s. In Home Economics I was taught that when it was time for your husband to come home from work, a woman was supposed to have a clean house; the kids washed and dressed; supper on the table and she was supposed to meet her husband at the door and ask, ?How was your day, dear?’ I FLUNKED Home Economics.”

Maggi may have flunked Home Economics but she certainly did not flunk life. She is truly an unforgettable character. Maggi lives in a turquoise painted Victorian house with a burgundy roof and inside it is art-filled from floor to ceiling. She has a constant stream of visitors and her phone is busy with calls. At the age of 44, Maggi stepped out on faith and left a career in advertising. She took a chance at her dream to write. She has published 13 books, a variety of songs and plays and is an avid photographer. “Fifty Years of Saturday Nights” was her first book which was published by The Tennessean to celebrate 50 years of The Grand Ole Opry. “The Light in the Kitchen Window” is her best selling book. Maggi has achieved her dream of becoming a full-time poet and writer.

“Everyone hears the drum, daydreamers see the drummer,” Vaughn says.

The Poet Laureate of Tennessee is elected by the state legislature and then approved by the governor. When Tennessee chooses a poet laureate, the elected officials look for a poet of the people. They want someone to be able to go to the small crossroads as well as the big cities. Since there are no official duties for the position of Poet Laureate in Tennessee, Maggi has taken it upon herself to travel throughout Tennessee and America promoting poetry. One of her main themes centers on “Choice of Voice,” which emphasizes that poetry is in the ear of the beholder. The position of poet laureate in Tennessee is not a paid one, but Maggi considers the position a treasure to hold. Maggi became Tennessee’s Poet Laureate in 1995.

Maggi’s poetry includes the poem for the state’s Bicentennial, “Who We Are,” a poem celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Air Force, the governor’s inauguration poem, and the poem, “The Tennessee Music Man,” for the 2002 release of the state quarter. She has appeared on PBS, TNT, USA, TNN and the BBC and on many local radio and television programs.

Maggi’s writing style is not a daily grind. She writes in long hand with a ballpoint pen. She describes her writing as spontaneous and not structured. She lets it flow, then her longtime friend and editor, Carole Knuth, Ph.D., fixes her punctuation. Maggi’s favorite writers include Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and her all-time favorite is Lee Smith.

Maggi says she has stayed in her childhood and that her writing comes from “inside of the belly.” Her advice to young writers is to keep their dreams and don’t pour water on that burning in the belly. A person is never too old to dream. She says it is important to take a chance. People who made a difference in this world took chances and were different. And how would she like to be remembered? Maggi would like to be remembered as a person who was loyal, loving, compassionate and “a little crazy.”

You can order Maggi’s books from bookstores or you can contact her at maggivaughn@cafes.net.

Mr. Tennessee Music Man

By Maggi Vaughn

Play for us, Mr. Tennessee Music Man.

Let your fiddle resonate with

The mountain and valley ballads and jigs

That came from the front porches

Of small Appalachian cabins

Where folks released their trials and tribulations

On homemade fiddles and banjos.

Play for us, Mr. Tennessee Music Man.

Let your guitar echo the heartbreak songs

That made their way to Music Row

From smoky honkytonks where lost loves

Found solace in the music of fretted steel strings.

Play for us, Mr. Tennessee Music Man.

Trumpet the blues that the winds carried

From repressed blacks in cotton fields

To a street in Memphis where a river

Trusted the sound and carried it south

To New Orleans and north to St. Louis.

May our historic quarter circulate

In all directions like our rich music.

Play, Mr. Tennessee Music Man.

They’re singing our songs around the world

In different quarter times.

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