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Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni was poet laureate of Arkansas from 1953 to 1970. A prolific poet herself, she worked to promote a greater appreciation of poetry, to establish an annual Poetry Day in Arkansas, and to encourage poets in her own time and place.
Rosa Zagnoni was born in Bologna, Italy, on January 5, 1888, and came to the United States with her parents in 1898. They lived in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Antero Zagnoni, was a journalist and drama critic. Her mother, Maria Marzocchi, was a poet and artist, and her uncle, Federico Marzocchi, was also a poet. She married Antonio Marinoni in Brooklyn on July 30, 1908, and moved to Fayetteville (Washington County), where her husband was on the faculty of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. He eventually became the head of the Department of Romance Languages. The Marinonis maintained their European ties and, beginning in 1922, conducted European tours for the general public during the summer months. The couple had twin daughters and two sons; two of their children died as babies. During World War II, Marinoni was active in the American Red Cross. After the death of her husband in 1944, Marinoni married Luigi Passarelli, also a professor in UA’s Romance language department, in 1946. He died in 1953.
Marinoni established the University-City Poetry Club in 1926, and for forty-five years, the club met at her home near campus. Members of the club submitted their writings to the analysis and criticism of their colleagues. At least eighteen collections of their work were published. She particularly supported the work of young and new writers, among them Arkansas poet Edsel Ford.
Marinoni was also a founder of the northwest Arkansas affiliate of the National League of American Pen Women. With the backing of this organization and of the Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs (now the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Arkansas), Marinoni promoted a wider appreciation of poetry, working through schools, women’s organizations, newspapers, and other means. As a result of these efforts, Governor Ben Laney proclaimed October 15, 1948, the first annual Poetry Day in Arkansas. Thereafter, Marinoni observed this day by recognizing three outstanding Arkansas poets, representing the past, present, and future.
In addition to her support and encouragement of other poets, Marinoni had a prodigious output of her own work. According to members of her family, who have conserved Marinoni’s papers, she published more than 1,000 short stories in seventy magazines and had poems in more than 900 publications in the United States and elsewhere. Between 1927, with Behind the Mask, and 1956, with Radici al Vento (Roots to the Sky; an English-Italian parallel text), she published at least nineteen books, including collections of her poems, sketches, and a booklet for the Paulist Press entitled What Price Popularity? Coming to Arkansas as an outsider, she was an enthusiastic promoter of the cultural richness she discovered in her adopted state. In 1954, she was named an Arkansas Traveler to be an “Ambassador of Good Will” for the state. Between 1956 and 1967, she published an Ozark Series, comprising The Ozarks and Some of Its People (1956), The Ozarks and Some (More) of Its People (1958), Lend Me Your Ears!: A Beakfull of Humorous Verse (1966), and Whoo-Whoo the “Howl” of the Ozarks Says: Think and Wink! (1967).
The Arkansas General Assembly named Marinoni poet laureate of Arkansas on March 28, 1953, an appointment she held until her death. In 1969, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller proclaimed October 15, the date on which Poetry Day is observed in Arkansas, to be Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni Day.
After the family home was destroyed by fire in 1924, Marinoni replaced it with a new Mediterranean-style residence named Villa Rosa. In 1990, the house was nominated to be added to the National Register of Historic Places for “its unique architectural characteristics” and its association with Marinoni. In 2006, it was the home of her granddaughter Paula Marinoni, a historic-preservation and environmental-conservation activist.
Marinoni died on March 26, 1970, in Fayetteville, and is buried in Fayetteville’s Catholic cemetery.
For additional Information:Contemporary Authors Permanent Series. vol. 1. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006.
Reynolds, John Hugh, and David Yancey Thomas. History of the University of Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1910.
Williams, Nancy A., ed. Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.
Ethel C. SimpsonUniversity of Arkansas, Fayetteville
June Baker JeffersonLife Writing
Last Updated 10/13/2008
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