York City government officials, economic-development pros and businesspeople are hoping to reinvent York through the talents of creative people. Allow us to introduce you to the folks who could be the key to unlocking York's future. Using video, photos and text, we're putting together a database of sorts, showcasing local artists of all stripes. Check out the other artists we've tracked down and featured. We call this section "I Art York."

Missi Ritter is a poet and York City resident. To view more "I Art York" artists go to yorkdispatch.com/iartyork.
Missi Ritter is a poet and York City resident. To view more "I Art York" artists go to yorkdispatch.com/iartyork. (Bil Bowden)

Missi McLaren Ritter discovered the raw writings of fellow poets in the library as a teenager.

A "chaotic upbringing" delivered her to the world of books, where she found peace and the words of people like Sylvia Plath.

Ritter had been writing since she was young, "but I was always trying to write these happy things."

It was in the library that she learned she could go deeper.

"I kind of gave myself permission to write whatever I wanted and to be really real on paper," Ritter, 40, said. "So, if I wanted to write about my illness or my family or everything that people weren't supposed to talk about, I could."

Today, the York City woman, whose work often reflects her struggle with manic bipolar disorder, is a published poet who has authored two books.

She admits she's not the best saleswoman. But selling books of poems isn't why she writes them.

"A lot of it is just me getting heard," she said. "You put it in a book, even if nobody ever reads it, it's there forever."

Bipolar disorder is a common theme in Ritter's work.

For example, a poem called "Bipolar Bear" gets its name from the nickname her young son gave her when he first learned about his mother's diagnosis.

Cute as that is, Ritter said she hopes her work also exposes the truth of illness and helps other people who struggle as she has.

"This is something that not only affects me, but it affects my husband and my kids and the people I live with and everybody that's even a little bit close to me. It's real," she said. "There's such a stigma on it. There's so many people out there that are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed."

Through poetry, Ritter said, she can tell people it's "OK to go to the dark places."

"You don't have to feel bad about thinking that," she said.

In downtown York, Ritter has positioned herself as a mentor for younger poets.

She lives at Verse 254 with other artists.

"It's interesting to see how our dynamic is like a regular family but better," she said. "Because there's more connection. There's more understanding."

Ritter hosts a poetry night open to the public at 7:30 p.m. every fourth Friday of the month at The Parliament, 116 E. King St.

HOW SHE WOULD IMPROVE YORK'S ART SCENE: Ritter said she'd like to see "more collaboration between the genres of art."

"Every time that we've done it, when we've mixed together the poetry and the art and the music, we're really creating amazing things," she said. "And I don't know why we're not doing that like once a week at least."