Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fargo Forum Article

I was quoted in the Oct. 7th issue of the Fargo Forum regarding the search for the new Poet Luareate of Minnesota.

Minn. to fill top job for poet

By Sherri Richards
Valley R&R - 10/07/2007

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is finally naming the first poet laureate of the state. Who the writer will be is still matter of fate.

OK, it’s actually a rather thorough nominating process that will involve much finer poetry than that. But creating the official honorary position of Minnesota’s poet laureate has been long awaited.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a 2005 bill to establish a state poet laureate was roundly panned in the literary world -- particularly for his reasoning. At the time, the governor said creating the position could lead to calls for other laureate positions. “We could also see requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter,” he wrote.

The proposal was revisited in 2007, and this time received an approving swipe of the pen.
Nominations are being sought through the end of October. A nominating committee will present three “commended poets” to Pawlenty in December. The governor will then name the poet laureate in a public ceremony.

We asked local poets and people in-the-know about who they would like to see as Minnesota’s preeminent poet.

Thom Tammaro, English professor, Minnesota State University Moorhead: Jim Moore, Patricia Hampl and Robert Bly, all of the Twin Cities, and Bill Holm of Minneota.
“These are people who have a long and dedicated history of being active in the poetry scene in Minnesota. I think they would certainly represent the position well,” Tammaro says.
“Each would probably have an interesting project that would help raise the profile of poetry and writing in general in the state.”

The Rev. Jamie Parsley, associate poet laureate of North Dakota and Episcopal priest: Robert Bly, Bill Holm and Mark Vinz of Moorhead.
“I think a poet laureate of any sort, if they’re of a particular state, really needs to represent that state in some way, shape or form, and also needs to further an appreciation for arts in that state,” Parsley says. “All three of those have done that in a way. ᅡナ You look at them and you think, ‘That’s Minnesota.’ ”

Anne Fredine, Moorhead Public Library director: Robert Bly, Mark Vinz and Thom Tammaro of Moorhead.
From the library’s perspective, Fredine said she thinks about whose works are often checked out or used in some way.
“Those three come to mind right away,” Fredine says. “I know that their books are well-used in the library.”

Greg Danz, owner, Zandbroz Variety: Mark Vinz, Bill Holm, Barton Sutter of Duluth, Minn., and Robert Bly.
Danz can also think of several good young poets in the state, such as Juliet Patterson of Minneapolis, but realizes the poet laureate likely needs to be someone with a longstanding reputation, such as the four he mentioned.
“I think part of being a poet laureate is being able to go out and promote ᅡナ just the ability to be engaging in public and a promoter of the literary arts.”

Mark Vinz, Moorhead, associate poet laureate of North Dakota: Robert Bly.
“The only poet laureate I could see for Minnesota would be Robert Bly. He has the stature; he’s certainly the senior poet in the state. I would be in favor of him. I’m not generally in favor of competitions between poets, but if there has to be one, I would say Robert Bly.”

Larry Woiwode, Mott, N.D., poet laureate of North Dakota since 1995: Louise Erdrich and Heid Erdrich, both of the Twin Cities (“Louise has said Heid is the better poet, but I don’t know. I really like Louise’s poetry, but Heid has a good wit.”), and Mark Vinz.

Woiwode is more than happy to welcome a neighboring poet laureate. After Pawlenty’s 2005 veto, Woiwode hosted a congress of standing poet laureates from across the U.S. He said it was unfortunate that one couldn’t simply cross the Red River to attend.

At that event, he read this passage that sums up the need for a state poet laureate:
“Most poets are rooted in the natural world, spokespersons for the inarticulate in nature, as well as the wordless desires of the common person -- or poets should be searching for words for those sides of the world. And most poets are committed politically, in one way or another, able to present their views in a memorable matrix of words; they can, in this function of their office, serve as a governing conscience of a gone-soft state.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter
Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

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