Take Two for October 9, 2012

Los Angeles in search for its first poet laureate

Stone Masons Complete The New Memorial To Poet Laureate Ted Hughes In Poets Corner

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A view of a new memorial to Poet Laureate Ted Hughes in Poets' Corner inside Westminster Abbey on December 2, 2011 in London, England. The Welsh slate carved memorial, to the former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes who died in 1998, sits in Poets' Corner alongside other British literary giants including Lord Alfred Tennyson, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot and William Shakespeare. It will be unveiled at a ceremony in Westminster Abbey tomorrow evening with guests including his widow, Carol Hughes, and poet Seamus Heaney attending.

The United States has one, California does, too. Now, the city of Los Angeles opening its arms to and accepting applications for its first ever poet laureate.

Patt Morrison spoke to Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts who heads the panel that will choose the first L.A. poet laureate.

Dana Gioia on why L.A. needs a Poet Laureate:
"I don’t know if L.A. needs a poet laureate, but it deserves one. You know, Los Angeles is one of the world centers for culture, for creativity, for the imagination, I tend to think Los Angeles is the capital of the 21st century art. So it’s fitting that as part of the civic identity of this is we have a symbolic artist, a poet laureate. And artists in our society get very little honor, poets get virtually none. And I really believe the United States does not do enough to honor our artists. And so this is, on a local level, a wonderful way of doing it."

Gioia on what the Poet Laureate will have to do:
"One is to visit schools, visit cultural organizations, and basically have an active way of promoting literature and literacy and poetry in Los Angeles. Secondly, a kind of symbolic role, to raise the awareness generally of the power of literature, of poetry, of language for the community of Los Angeles, which is a community that is driven by creative industries. And thirdly is to play a role in public ceremonies. We hope that the poet laureate will, you know, not on a regular basis, but will write a few poems during that are fitting at public occasions, and at civic events."

Gioia on who should apply:
"First and foremost, we want somebody whose work has literary excellence. That does not mean we’re going to get a bunch of poets and say ‘this is the best poet,’ we really want to feel there's a level of literary excellence in their work. Secondly, we want someone who has a disposition for public service. If Emily Dickinson sent us her poems, but said ‘I don’t really want to leave my house,’ she would not really be a good choice for poet laureate. And thirdly, someone with a real connection to Los Angeles. he or she does not have to be a native Angeleno, if we found somebody who was a tremendous Spanish language poet we would be open to that too, but it’s gotta be someone that’s a long term resident of Los Angeles, somebody who’s decided to become part of Los Angeles."

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, will you be throwing your hat into the ring?


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