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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fresno Has a Poet Laureate, Do We Need One?

Posted by Thomas Ross on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 4:14 PM

So the New York Times has a short thought piece on public arts/puff piece about Fresno, CA. It's about how Fresno's got itself a poet laureate and apparently a bunch of other cities and towns are doing this, too.

The idea seems to be that Fresno is an important literary city, but its residents need a reminder or something. Also, the city is lacking a way to express itself. So they chose this guy James Tyner, who calls Fresno a "bathroom stop" and who wrote a poem for his inauguration that starts "I am Fresno" and isn't amazing.

Philip Levine, former US Poet Laureate, sounding kind of strung out about it, is quoted as saying, "I don't know, I don't know." He worries it might "water down the award" and asks if cities really need their own Poets Laureate to express themselves. I agree, at least for Portland.

We've got a strong, diverse literary scene, and appointing One Poet To Rule Them All seems unhelpful and maybe damaging. That said, let's brainstorm some ideas in the comments. Because if Fresno and my old hometown of Boise get to have a Poet Laureate, so do we.

So who will it be? Dickman? Schomburg? Vlautin? My idea is to just let anybody write the poems but always have Sam Elliott read them.

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