Tennessee’s poet laureate got her start in songwriting

Maggi Vaughn (Photo: WKRN)

BELL BUCKLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Our very own Anne Holt has been looking for interesting people all across Middle Tennessee for her new project, Anne Holt’s Tennessee.

For our first installment of this special segment, Anne found Maggi Vaughn—a great Southern writer and Tennessee’s poet laureate.

“The poet laureate represents the state as a poet,” she said.

And Vaughn has been doing just that for the past 22 years.

“I got my voice from country music. I heard there was a way they could turn a phrase and the history behind it, so I went to mama and I said, ‘Mama, you know I want to be a poet and a songwriter,’” she explained.

Maggi Vaughn (Photo: WKRN)

“Of course she knew that because I had told her lots of times. I had my first lyric. It was called, “here i sit alone at the bar,’ and she said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to be a nurse?’” Vaughn continued.

Radio broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry fueled her dreams when she was young. And in 1965, the Wilburn Brothers signed her to a songwriting contract.

“They said we got someone coming in, Maggi, we want you to team up with. You all write a lot alike. They said he’s got a big hit out now called ‘Honky Tonk Girl.’ I said oh, that’s Loretta Lynn. I was excited to death,” she told News 2.

Vaughn parlayed her backstage Opry pass into her first book titled “50 Years of Saturday Nights.”

But songwriting couldn’t pay the bills, so she took a day job selling newspaper ads before taking a giant leap.

“When I got ready to go out on my own and quit my job, when I was 42, my mother had a fit. I said no mama, I’m gonna step out on faith, and I did, and I moved to Bell Buckle,” Vaughn explained.

Shortly after the move, News 2’s Anne Holt interview Vaughn for our Hometown Tour. By then, she was on the road promoting her second book.

Vaughn still composes the old-fashioned way and has produced 19 books, and nobody knows how many poems.

In her work “Out of the Box,” she takes on intolerance.

(Photo: WKRN)

“One of my favorite poems I’ve ever written is called ‘Constipated Minds,’ about how people’s minds are constipated and what they need to do. I try to make a statement when I can,” Vaughn said.

Her poem “Who We Are” makes the ultimate statement about Tennessee.

“We’re the one-room schoolhouse in the holler. We’re the university grad and the front porch scholar,” she read.

It’s now the state’s official bicentennial poem.

“It ends with, ‘We know we’ve done our best, stood the test and will be laid to rest in the fertile soil of Tennessee. And that’s where I’ll go.’”

Click here for more of Anne Holt’s Tennessee stories.