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“Poet Laureate? Poet Illiterate? What?”

Luis J Rodriguez poet laureateDoes poetry matter? L.A.’s former poet-in-chief Luis J. Rodriguez explains why it’s life changing. Los Angeles Times.

Confusion aside, I felt it was about time “poet laureate” became a household term. The United States now has more poet laureates than ever before. There are poet laureates for states, counties, cities, communities, small towns, and Native American reservations (Luci Tapahonso became the first poet laureate of the Diné Nation). Claudia Castro Luna, a Salvadoran American, served as Seattle’s poet laureate and later held the same post for Washington state. Two Xicanx poets, Laurie Ann Guerrero and Octavio Quintanilla, did the same for San Antonio. Sponsored by New York City–based Urban Word, there is also a Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate (I helped pick two of them) and the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate, eighteen-year-old Amanda Gorman.

…It’s hard to figure out poetry’s worth when there is a hierarchy of “values” hanging over our heads determined not by nature or skill but by powerful men in the publishing, media, and political industries — entities that are about making money. I’m not talking about family values or cool traits. I’m talking net worth, the bottom line: “If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.”

If that’s the case, poetry should perish.


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