Michael Castro

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro.

A memorial service for St. Louis’ first poet laureate, Michael Castro, will be held Sunday, Jan. 20, at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd. in St. Louis. The memorial will run from 3 to 7 p.m.

Mr. Castro was named St. Louis Poet Laureate in 2015. He used that platform to pull together various St. Louis poetry communities to begin the Brick City Poetry Festival. He also edited an anthology of St. Louis poets titled “Crossing the Divide.” He most recently taught at Lindenwood University and before that at University of Missouri-St. Louis. He worked as a co-translator of contemporary Hungarian poetry.

Mr. Castro’s passion for writing began in fourth grade when his teacher assigned students an “original paragraph” based on a provided title.

“Most of my classmates found this an onerous task,” he told the Word in 2015. “I loved it. I really got into it.”

He loved to read fiction and later turned to journalistic writing. In college at the State University of New York-Buffalo, he enjoyed the readings given by the lively English Department. He struggled to give a quick synopsis of what each poem meant, until reading Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry made him realize he was asking the wrong question. He realized instead of “What does it mean?” he should be asking “How does it affect you?”

“I realized that poetry could be like music or art that affected you on more than an intellectual basis,” he said.

Mr. Castro was a native of New York City, but came to St. Louis to attend Washington University. He enjoyed words and the sound of words. Mr. Castro was one of the earliest members of River Styx and a founder in the early 1970s of the River Styx literary magazine which continues.

Mr. Castro was 73 when he died on Dec. 23, 2018. He had battled cancer in recent years.

Mr. Castro is survived by his wife, Adelia Parker-Castro; son Jomo Castro; stepdaughter Veronica James; stepson Darin Parker and seven grandchildren. He lived in University City.