Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Poet Laureate for Washington State!

From the Seattle Times (Link above)

Gregoire marks poetry month by creating poet-laureate post

AP Political Writer

OLYMPIA — Washington state will soon have its own poet laureate.

Gov. Christine Gregoire this week marked National Poetry Month by signing legislation that creates the new post of poet laureate. Forty other states and the United States have poet laureates, typically a published poet who composes for special events and promotes poetry and literacy among children and the citizenry through lectures, workshops and readings.

The governor and state Arts Commission will appoint the honoree after getting recommendations from a special screening committee. The laureate must be a state resident and would hold a two-year appointment.

It's not a get-rich position, since the state budget provides only $30,000 in startup costs for the first two years, including a stipend and expense money for the poet-in-chief. Other states typically give an honorarium of between $2,000 and $5,000 a year. Future financing will come from private grants, donations and endowments, rather than the state budget.

Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, noted that in old England, poet laureates were paid with a butt of wine — 126 gallons — and suggested that the state Wine Commission donate some good stuff.

"Creating a poet laureate for Washington honors the role played by poetry and poets in the creative culture of our state," the governor said.

The prime sponsor, state Rep. Mary Skinner, R-Yakima, called the poet laureate "the state's official spokesperson in verse," with the mission of broadening the popularity of poetry and providing verse for public occasions.

"This is an exciting day for the literary arts in Washington," Skinner said.

She and Yakima poet and veteran journalist Ed Stover presented the governor with a poem written for the occasion.

The legislation, which passed after 12 years of efforts by sponsors, takes effect in 90 days. The choice for poet laureate could be announced this fall.

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