Yardley’s Alexa Gutter Named 2013 Bucks County Poet Laureate

The English teacher, part-time actor, and first-generation American rose to the top of 78 entries in the 37th annual contest, the longest-running poet laureate competition in Pennsylvania. 

Alexa Gutter – an English teacher, part-time actor, and first-generation American – has been named the 2013 Bucks County Poet Laureate, officials at Bucks County Community College announced.

The Lower Makefield resident, who rose to the top of 78 entries in the 37th annual contest, was honored with a reading November 17 at the college’s Newtown campus. She was joined by runners-up Natalie Mera Ford, Tom Mallouk, and Sandra Becker, all of Doylestown, and 2012 poet laureate Lara Adams Gaydos of Chalfont.

Gutter, who grew up along the banks of the Delaware River, says she put pen to paper at a very young age.

“As soon as I could write, I did. I wrote my first poem when I was six years old, and I still have all my high school journals filled with poetry,” recalls Gutter. “I remember being very young and reading a Polish poet, Wislawa Symborska. I don’t think I understood it, but I knew it was really important and really special.”

Later, Gutter says she was inspired by poets Mary Oliver and Pablo Naruda. “I had a couple of Naruda’s sonnets read at my wedding,” she added.

Born in Princeton, she spent much of her childhood living in Yardley, where she developed a love of storytelling by listening to tales from her well-traveled parents.

“My mom was born in Finland, and my dad was born in China, to Polish Jews who sought refuge there after escaping from Warsaw during World War II,” explained Gutter. “My mom didn’t write but she had so many stories to tell, and traveled a lot.” 

Her mother passed away a few years ago. Her father, Marco Newton, remains active as the president of the board of ActorsNET Bucks County in Morrisville, where Gutter has performed in various productions when her schedule permits.

Gutter, an English teacher at New Hope-Solebury High School, graduated from Marymount Manhattan College where she majored in English and minored in creative writing and education.  While there, she was awarded the Joseph P. Clancy prize for poetry in 2007, and had poems nominated for the Associated Writing Program’s Annual Intro Journal Awards Project.  Her poem “To Myself, Age Ten” appeared in the National English Honor Society literary journal in 2008.  

When she moved back to Bucks County in 2010, Gutter soon discovered a community of poets through annual workshops hosted by Bucks County Community College Professor Christopher Bursk.

“One thing I’ve learned is how much poets need other poets,” she says. “We tend to think of poetry as a solitary occupation, but we need each other. It’s part of the writing process and it’s what makes it so satisfying.”

This year’s contest judges were Joan Aleshire and Martha McFerren. Aleshire, a graduate of Harvard/Radcliffe and the Goddard MFA program, teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College. She is the author of several books, including her most recent, Happily.  McFerren is the author of five books, including the most recent, Archeology of Midnight. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louisiana Arts Council, and Yaddoo.  

The Bucks County Poet Laureate program – the longest-running such program in Pennsylvania – is another way that Bucks County Community College contributes to the cultural heritage of the region. For more information, contact co-director Dr. Chris Bursk at 215-968-8156.

Jean Dolan
Assistant Director, Public Relations