Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Minnesota Poet Laureate

Long time no write. I have to learn to shoot more from the hip. Anyway, a little something from the life...

Minnesota to Have Its First Poet Laureate

Let the games begin.

For those of you who may not know, Tim Pawlenty has reversed his decision of last year to institute a poet laureate for the State of Minnesota. The country as a whole has one (currently Charles Simic:, and some other states have them. Details vary regarding duties and appointment times. In Tennessee the position is appointed for life. Its neighbor to the north, Kentucky, states that the poet laureate need not even be a poet. Go figure.

You mention something to a friend while drinking, and you never know what'll come of it. Next day I woke up to see someone had nominated me. Anyone could nominate anyone, and you could even nominate yourself. And yes, as my friend Dylan said in his column, Shady Dealings (see anyone who has ever written a rhyming couplet was throwing his hat into the ring. Best of luck, I say. Well, the film Rocky was not great because he won the climactic fight but of the epic battle he put up against the odds. In that vein, I took the nomination seriously and submitted my statement of vision and some writing samples, as is the requisite. For the sake of edification I figured I would share the vision statement with you. Comments welcome. I'd be curious to see what you think of my ideas.

MN Poet Laureate Statement of Vision:

How many times have we seen the US Poet Laureate come and go and wonder what he or she had done to further the art of poetry? Appointed to this post, I would approach it as a very real job. I have already reaching out to other state poet laureates to see what they are doing, what successes they have had and what obstacles they have faced. I am gleaning some vital feedback, and will continue to do this.

Were I appointed, I would open a dialogue with other poets and literary institutions about the current state of poetry in Minnesota. Gleaning their pertinent ideas, I would then work to integrate them with my own to formulate two to five solid initiatives to put in place, such that they would continue after my tenure, inherent within them the potential to grow and expand as desired or needed.

Initiatives I currently have in mind are:

(Re)introduce the average citizen to poetry. Ask your neighbor and she will likely share that she just “doesn’t get” poetry or that poetry is written for an audience that does not include her. With the wealth of poetry styles and history at our disposal, people need to be enlightened to the fact that there well may be a poetry that resonates with them. With the help of local organizations like Resources and Counciling for the Arts, The Walker, etc.), I would coordinate poets, from the academic to the underground, and enlist them to read all over the state, in expected and unexpected venues and in conjunction with other disciplines (music, multi-media, etc.) to show citizens the many faces and potential of poetry. I find this tantamount to the future of poetry in this state and, indeed, the country.

Work with teachers, poets, organizations such as COMPAS (Writers and Artists in Schools), and other appropriate administrators to concoct a viable poetry program that could be implemented in high schools across the state. This program could be standardized to a point, with a certain amount of flexibility to be built in based on region, teacher, and context. Once established on the high school level, this model could then be used to create a similar program for K-12. The goal here, clearly, would be to introduce the beauty, power, and potential of poetry to young minds at a time when they are more open to such concepts.

Were these two ideas alone put into action in the first year of the Minnesota poet laureateship, we would place itself firmly on the bleeding edge of the arts in this country. I would state clearly to the citizens of the state what my plans are and ask them to hold me accountable.

With the institution of this post, our state has a unique opportunity to prove it does not take the arts lightly. In making your choice I plead with you not to choose someone who will rest on their laurels or simply promote their own poetry or private agenda. Elected, I would ensure its inaugural year would be one of action, not hollow symbolism.


As stated I have begun seeking out and emailing the current poet laureates for the states which have them, asking them about their successes, best practices, and failures. I haven't received much back, but I plan to keep asking and perhaps invite the Duluth poet laureate, Barton Sutter, to be interviewed for this blog.

Whatever the outcome with the Minnesota poet laureate appointment, I say let's hold the position accountable for doing SOMETHING we can see and feel in regards to poetry in this state. I nominated a couple of talented poets myself, whom I believe would take the position seriously. If either of them were to get the post, I guarantee you would see something happen.


Autumn is upon us and with it the ennui and depression that always rabbit punches my soul. Fighting through it this year.

Working on a new chapbook, ideas for future postings of video, and interviews with writers.

I have a book review published in the latest issue of Whistling Shade ( of Rough Traces by Jason Wesco. It's a solid collection of poetry.

I'm also reading again on an almost regular basis at a local open mic I like. Never thought I'd do that again. Never say never, I guess.

1 comment:

squakk said...

i'd love to see you read at open mic night- would you welcome guests? sq