Thursday, September 24, 2009

[MN] Whistling Shade Takes On MN Poet Laureate

Whistling Shade, one of my favorite Minnesota literary journals, posted a piece by Dylan Garcia Wahl regarding our Poet Laureate. It's an honest critique, and this, along with prickly Dan Schneider's no-nonsense This Old Poem essays at Cosmoetica, reminds me why I love the vibrant poets culture of Minnesota.

Without frank dissent, grumbling, constructive criticism and needling, we can't grow as artists or produce anything worth reading among the Immortals. We get safe, maudlin tripe that will keep boring the piss out of people. Dylan's column was a refreshing wakeup. I concur, we can and MUST expect more of our Minnesota Poet Laureate.

Under the Thumper principle, I'm not going to point fingers at other states who have severely underwhelming Poet Laureates. The ones who come to mind are struggling enough. I will say many of them are at least -trying- to do a good job for such a title, given how little support most states provide. To deliberately do -nothing- as a Poet Laureate in Minnesota strikes so dissonant a note it is not unlike the Angel of Death belching through a penny whistle to collect a wayward Muse.

As one of the two NEA Literature Fellows from Minnesota this year, as I've traveled, I sincerely hope those I met emerged with a stronger sense of the amazing potential and joys of poetry. It's not formally my responsibility to advocate in that way, but I think we would all agree it's an implicit aspect of the role, as it is for those who've received Minnesota State Arts Board funding.

To momentarily play the devil's advocate: Perhaps in doing nothing, this does piss off the rest of our poetic colleagues as to be more effective than if our Poet Laureate were actively doing something. But it's not a strategy I'd employ, and I hope future Poet Laureates will consider something different from current precedent.

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