tell your state senator we need a massachusetts poet laureate!

Did you know that Massachusetts is one of only five states without an official poet laureate? The home of Bishop, Bradstreet, Dickinson, Cummings, Kunitz, Longfellow, Frost, Olson, Sexton, Plath, Lowell, etc. And no poet laureate? Ouch!

A bill to remedy the situation has already passed the state house. Contact the senate Ways and Means Committee to ask that the bill is brought up for a vote, and that we have a Massachusetts state poet laureate.

Many states have had a poet laureate for at least half a century and some for more than a century. California selected its first poet laureate in 1915; Oregon, in 1923; Virginia, in 1938. (Check out the Library of Congress data on state poet laureates.) But until now, it never seemed to cross anyone’s mind that Massachusetts was missing a great feature for our cultural environment.

What do poet laureates do? Well, look at the projects of past national poet laureates, starting with Massachusetts’s own Robert Pinsky, who founded the Favorite Poem Project, for which over 18,000 Americans shared their favorite poems. Or look at Ted Kooser’s project, which posts a weekly contemporary poem in newspapers and online periodicals across the country. Or Billy Collins’s project to supply a weekly poem for teachers to discuss with their students. Or Kay Ryan’s project to put poetry in community colleges. Or Natasha Trethewey’s PBS series with Sr. Correspondent (and poet) Jeffrey Brown. And on a local level, city and town poet laureates are stirring interests; for example Patrick Donnelly, Northampton’s poet laureate, has put together to local community group for a spoken-out-loud, theatrical production of a Albert Goldbarth poem.

All these programs are perhaps greatly responsible for the new interest in poetry in the American populace.

Representative David Vieira, who serves Barnstable third district, has moved to change the Massachusetts’s situation. So have Representatives Sarah K. Peake of Barnstable and Denise Provost of Middlesex, who co-sponsored the bill. Along with Rep. Vieira, they are three of 21 elected petitioners to “create the position of poet laureate of the Commonwealth.” Since the bill passed the house, it has currently been referred to the senate Ways and Means Committee.   

The conditions of the position, the length of the term and the means of selections of the laureate are contained within the house bill.  

Poets and poetry lovers contact your state senator today to express your wish to see the bill enacted into law!