The Poets (Laureate) of Cities

If you’re lucky, you find out about a cultural shift before it’s over. ?I feel certain that many people living in the 1920s were aware that a cultural shift was going on, especially if they lived in Europe. ?Quite a few Americans are now aware that a cultural shift is occurring in the US. ?It is hard to witness the momentum on issues like marriage equality and the legalization of marijuana without acknowledging that. ?But one that snuck up on me is the proliferation of poets laureate in cities (they now number 35) around the country, what Jennifer Benka, the executive director of the American Academy of Poets, calls “a nationwide phenomenon.” ?Fresno, California just named their first poet laureate, James Tyner. ?(Fresno, by the way, is also home to the Philip Levine, former US poet laureate, and the current poet laureate of California, Juan Felipe Herrera, so they do have something to shout about.) ?Whether this enthusiasm for poetry generally (all but six states have poets laureate) is thanks to programs pushing poetry or the boom in creative writing programs (82 versus 79 in 1975) no one knows. ?But for the cities themselves, what better way to express their civic pride than by underscoring the specific and essential nature of who they are. ?Only poetry can do that. ?These cities could have put their money in marketing campaigns but attracting tourism doesn’t seem to be the goal, at least in Fresno. ?Read the NYT article: ?

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