Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vote Early. Vote Poetically.

Socialist poet Adrian Mitchell wrote that "most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." Seattle's city council, led by the irrepressible Nick Licata, has been working valiantly to bring poetry into our public sphere by sponsoring an annual competition for Poet Populist. Each year since 1999, a dozen local arts organizations nominate local poets, and sponsors stage a series of public readings across the city. The entire city is invited to vote online and the winner is awarded a cash prize of $500, commissioned to write a poem for the people of the city, and encouraged to make public appearances throughout the year.

The poetic election follows the same schedule as the national election - voting ends on November 4th, and in January the current Poet Populist will pass the torch to the new office-holder at a reading at the Seattle Public Library. It's a strong program, and a clever way of promoting literary arts and local arts organizations to a general audience city-wide.

Me, I'm voting for local carpenter, painter and poet Arne Pihl, who I've had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions and who always impressed me as a sensitive and hard-working type with plenty of deep thoughts to share on fishing, drinking, love, and the many causes and purposes of heartbreak. A very likely poet populist!

In support of my pick, this excerpt from one of Arne's poems.


You been engaged
Four times
But never married.
“One more”
You said
“And I’ll have one
For the thumb”

You never been with a man
More than six months,
Nor single
Since sixteen
You’re thirty-six
In August
Maybe that’s why
You hate

Mr. Cranefly,
You have twenty-four hours
From the egg
To mature
And die.
What are you doing

And you,
You there
In the notebook,
Mr. Poet,
Defending your life
Like a squid
With the ink,
Your troubles
Aren’t even
Worth mentioning

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