Poets use prose to 'protest' exclusion from inauguration

5:48 PM, Jan 5, 2011   |    comments
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PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Since the creation of the position of Maine Poet Laureate in 1995, Maine's top poet has been invited to deliver a message at every governor's inauguration, that is until this year.

"I don't think I would have thought much about it if nothing had been said, but when they made a point of saying they weren't doing poetry or dry choral music, then I was concerned that the arts seemed to have been dismissed," stated Maine's current Poet Laureate, Betsy Sholl.

"I think that to talk about no frills, as though art is a frill, is very, very wrong and a real danger to the culture," added Sholl.  "It is the arts that keep us alive.  It is the arts that allow us to see beyond the moment."

That's why Sholl and about fifty other members from across Maine's arts community descended upon Longfellow Square in Portland at the same time as Governor Paul LePage's inauguration.  Standing in the shadow of Maine's best known poet, they read and recited poems as a way to send a message that the arts are an important part of the state, and a big draw for visitors and residents alike.

"Once we saw the poetry piece was removed from the inauguration, we decided to do something at the same time to celebrate and put the focus back on poetry," explained Joshua Bodwell, executive director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.  "The value of poetry and poets is not a monetary value, so I can't imagine it was a big budget item to have poetry.  Sometimes I think we need to be reminded that we need to celebrate things, because life is so busy."

Many in the group pasted I Love Maine Poetry stickers on their coats and shared a favorite poem or works of their own with those gathered in attendance.  And while the event was not a real protest, there was a message the group wanted to deliver to the folks taking power in Augusta.

"We would just like the administration to be aware of the importance of the arts," said Sholl.  "And I understand that they claim they didn't mean to dis the arts.  Hopefully this will make them a little more aware that there are a lot of us out here who care about the arts."


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