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Local Poet Wins Prestigious Award

Washington Township resident Erica Manto Paulson awarded the 2022 Ohio Poet of the Year.

Raised in an artistic family that not only valued but encouraged expressiveness,  Erica Manto Paulson has been writing poems and inspirational ideas on any available scrap of paper since she was a little girl.

“We move so fast through life that sometimes the beauty of the moment can be lost on us,” Erica explains when asked why she writes poetry. 

The Ohio Poetry Day Association named Erica the 2022 Ohio Poet of the Year in October. The association has bestowed the award continuously since 1976. Poet laureates and a Pulitzer Prize winner have been among previous winners. Her contemporaries are not likely to have been surprised by the award. However, Erica takes nothing for granted, seeing the award as a huge honor and inspiration to keep writing. She confesses, “Sometimes I have these moments of questioning myself. Should I keep writing? It’s a nudge from the world. Keep going. Keep writing.”

Finding inspiration can be a difficult task for writers at times. Erica draws inspiration from many fronts. She has grown as a part of the poetry community, first in Cincinnati and now in Washington Township. She draws on her work as a midwife assistant and doula as well as her role as a mother. Her children and supportive husband provide both inspiration and encouragement.

Erica’s poetry collection Hunger came to be partly due to the efforts and encouragement of others. Paulson’s mentor, Cincinnati Poet Laureate Emeritus Pauletta Hansel, told her, “These poems shouldn’t sit in your desk drawer. Put them in a book.” Pauletta also advised her to stick with a theme for the collection. In Paulson’s words, “It’s a fearless book about birth in its many forms.” The book is also about connections, and therefore can speak to anyone, not just women and mothers.

“This body is all I have ever known of being a woman–a home,

never empty. Now the space inside widens like the rings in trees

where squirrels hide nests as they have done for a thousand seasons

and will do for a thousand more.”

“For the Young Mother Inside My Body” from Hunger by Eric Manto Paulson

The collection has a clearly defined theme surrounding birth and relationships. Erica also intends to make a statement by redefining a woman in her time of birthing, as a mother and a nurturer, while bringing awareness of normal physiologic birth. “It’s time for women to take back their births. Step into the power,” she states.

The pandemic was an additional contributing factor to this collection of poems. Working at home provided the time necessary to pursue a project. Some of the poems in Hunger were inspired by and written about the pandemic. Erica’s hope is that this time will bring us closer together again.

Several writers, in addition to Pauletta, have served as influences for Erica, and many have gone beyond being purely influential. She regards them as friends, colleagues and mentors.

Kari Gunter-Seymour, the Poet Laureate of Ohio, Manuel Iris,  Cincinnati Library Writer in Residence as well as The Greenville Poets Cathryn Essinger, Aimee Noel, Myrna Stone and David Lee Garrison who nominated Erica for Ohio Poet of the Year have all been key influences.  

The poetry of Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver has also been a big inspiration for Erica. Oliver wrote with tenderness and raw vulnerability. Her willingness to open up with unabashedness is reflected in the pages of Hunger, demonstrating the impact of her work.

The poetry community has not only accepted her, but it has also propelled her through encouragement, feedback, criticism and by challenging her to be authentic. Erica says, “I really thrive in a literary community.” That appears to be an understatement. “I’m trying to drink in all this abundance. I feel so grateful, ” Erica adds. She is currently working on a full-length collection which she expects to complete in 2023. Her submissions to contests and publications will also continue.

Erica and her husband Scott own Nurture in Cincinnati where ultrasounds, gender tests, various classes and doula services are offered. They believe in helping women at every stage of the motherhood journey. To learn more, visit

For more information about Erica and her poetry, visit her website Her award-winning collection Hunger is available through and other major book retailers.