Minnesota Laureates

light of poetry from library of congressRemember Minnesota, the state that doesn”t have an official poet laureate because the governor vetoed it? The story first made the news in May of last year when Governor Tim Pawlenty decided that establishing an official poet laureate for the state might open the floodgates and next thing you know every distaff art and its cousin would be demanding equal time. He envisioned requests for a state interpretive dancer, potter or – heaven forbid – a state mime. Never mind that there is an official U.S. poet laureate, and that 4/5ths of the states appoint an official poetic position, and to the best of my knowledge, few of them have succumbed in a slide down the slippery slope of appointing official state bell-ringers and yodelers. The bill was vetoed, and allowed to die.

But the idea was not. Governor Pawlenty”s veto seems to have opened a different kind of floodgate. In April of this year, the Lake Superior Writers named Barton Sutter to be Duluth”s official Poet Laureate, the first in the city. The movement to appoint an official poet for Duluth was an obvious response to the governor”s veto. Appointed on April 22, Sutter will serve two years in his term before being succeeded by another. The appointment was the result of grass roots activisim on the part of businessmen and citizen”s of the city.

Following in Duluth”s footsteps, St. Paul, Minnesota appointed its own poet laureate last month. Carol Connolly, an activist and poet, will serve as the city”s official poet, commissioned to write poems for special city occasions and helping to encourage and spread the love of poetry throughout the city. Connolly officially took up her duties and appeared as poet laureate in public for the first time at Mayor Chris Coleman”s budget address.

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