May 7, 2000 |
A poet's pen is really a pickax, chip, chip, chipping away at some hidden mine of memory or intellect or experience, digging out the precious nugget that will gleam with truth. Lansdale poet Margaret Almon's mine is marbled with rich veins of her girlhood in Alberta, Canada. From it emerge poignant observations on stifled dreams, family mythology and what it means to grow up as a woman, with occasional forays into history and the natural world. Recently, Almon's verse earned her the title of Montgomery County poet laureate.
June 2, 1996 |
Before appearing on a local TV show recently, River Huston, Bucks County's poet laureate, asked the host to - please - not introduce her as the woman some New Jersey parents have called obscene. Huston is trying to get past the high-publicity incident that involved parents' harsh reaction after she graphically demonstrated how to use a condom at a high school assembly. The event landed her on national TV programs such as Day and Date and Good Morning America. It was memorialized on the cover of a Trenton tabloid newspaper, laminated and hung on her kitchen wall: RAUNCHY DEMOS AT SAFE SEX TALK, the headline screams in bold red. But Huston, 36, a Bucks County native, doesn't want that image to define her. Nor would she introduce herself as the woman reproached last year by Bucks County commissioners.
October 5, 2002 |
Right about now, the folks who govern Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington must feel pretty darn smart. They never got around to naming a poet laureate, unlike 40 other states and the District of Columbia. "There just isn't any compelling reason to have one," said Michigan Gov. John Engler, refusing to establish an official poet for the Great Lakes State. And so, while New Jersey Gov. McGreevey untangles a bureaucratic knot caused by a poem, laureate-free governors are free to concentrate on less-complicated matters, such as port strikes and highway repair.
December 28, 2002
The New Jersey Legislature seems hell-bent on abolishing the post of state poet laureate only two years after it was created. This is overkill. It is a kneejerk reaction to controversy. Yet a bill to eliminate the post has sailed through committee and awaits full Senate action following the holiday recess. The lawmakers have reason to be upset with current poet laureate Amiri Baraka, whose controversial poem, "Somebody Blew Up America," included a reprehensible suggestion that Jews were responsible for the World Trade Center attack.
July 2, 1992 |
I'm often asked if I can imagine a bigger scam than being a movie critic, and until now, I've always said no. Until now, I didn't know that the part-time job of poet laureate of the United States paid $35,000 a year. I'd always assumed that the title was an honorary one, and that no money changed hands. Prosaic sap! Poet laureates are named by the Library of Congress. That means the federal government is involved. Given that, I'm surprised that Congress hasn't authorized several billion for a poet laureate bailout, or a stealth poet.
January 3, 2012
Mayor Nutter has added another feather to Philadelphia's cultural cap by naming Sonia Sanchez its first poet laureate. Nutter announced the idea of creating a poet laureate program in May, during a Sanchez reading at City Hall. A committee that included novelist Lorene Cary recommended Sanchez, a natural choice. A teacher, mentor, activist, and humanitarian as well as a poet, Sanchez, 77, has long been regarded as the city's unofficial poet laureate. But now the job is truly hers.
August 13, 1990 |
Robert Frost never was one. Neither was Robert Penn Warren. Oh, sure, Frost was state poet laureate for Vermont and Warren was state poet laureate for Kentucky. But neither was ever a poet laureate for a county. No county in the nation seems to have its own poet laureate - except one outside Philadelphia. Bucks County. According to an Inquirer phone survey of the 50 state government arts agencies, 21 have a state poet or poet laureate. But no such state agency is aware of any county in its state that has its own poet.
April 9, 2013 |
The topics ranged from love and sex to history and time, but it was all poetry in motion Sunday at the Arts Bank in Center City. Among the recitals was a graphic short poem by Lamont B. Steptoe, "New Orleans," that described having nonviolent, sexual fun with women in the Big Easy. "Most people can't pull that off," Sean Lynch, 20, said. "It's so hard to pull off being vulgar in poetry. " Lynch, a student at Rutgers University's Camden campus, said he had been writing poetry for a decade but performed for the first time in a public forum during Sunday's 17th annual Poetry Ink. Lynch said Steptoe inspired him to go public.
November 23, 1995 |
Last week, River Huston performed her first duty as 1996 Bucks County poet laureate: She did a reading at a public meeting of the county commissioners. The power of her words still reverberated in the cinder-block meeting room yesterday. That the poem contained a certain four-letter word caused some discomfort. That the poem was about living with AIDS caused, apparently, more discomfort. As yesterday's meeting of the commissioners started, Sheriff Lawrence Michaels got vocal.
April 8, 2001 |
In April 1998, a year after the Library of Congress named him poet laureate, Robert Pinsky established the Favorite Poem Project. Over the next year, 18,000 people - ranging in age from 5 to 97 - wrote to submit their favorite poems. A collection of those poems, along with letters of submission, has been published and is now in its sixth printing. A set of 50 short documentary videos has been released, and a Web site devoted to Americans' favorite poems has been created, along with an expandable database of the letters of submission.