‘Skewed and disrespectful reporting’

Shame on you, Village Soup/Republican Journal. Shame on you, Mike Hurley. Get your priorities straight, members of the City Council. That Belfast celebrates a poet laureate is a point of pride for Waldo County. That the “Fab Four” have served Belfast as staunch volunteer supporters of poetry (whether or not they happen to be honored as laureates at the time) is to the great good luck and benefit of the community.

The annual Belfast Poetry Festival, and especially its Waldo County Home Night, which brings out a cornucopia of local poetry talent of all ages to showcase a diversity of perspectives on our world that I never imagined one county could possibly contain, makes me proud to be part of Waldo County and happy to make the trek to Belfast for an exciting cultural event. (I might even spend a bit of money in local establishments, or perhaps take in a movie after the festival).

Neither the VS/RJ online article of Dec. 27, 2010, nor that of Jan. 5, 2011, shared the spirit of celebration and honor in support of poetry that a bestowing of laurels implies — it is the Republican Journal that has ‘lost the spirit’ of the moment to bicker a point of procedure and include quotes that could only be read as insult to process and thus injury to person.

The poems and columns of former poet laureates have been among my favorite parts of the paper, and I am sad to think that skewed and disrespectful reporting by the VillageSoup/Republican Journal may have stolen depth from cultural events in Belfast and squandered the opportunity for your pages to be graced by a poet laureate.

Barbaria Maria, please hear the voice of the people and the poets (rather than the misguided words of the press and politicians) and accept the invitation to be poet laureate of Belfast.

Karin Eberhardt

Poetry fan and member of Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance

Liberty

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‘Odor of cronyism cannot but cling’

While we all understand that Mike Hurley is no stranger to provocation, in principle, I have to agree with him: our town’s newest and short-lived poet laureate was selected (appointed, anointed, catapulted, whatever) from a pretty narrow field. The odor of cronyism cannot but cling. Furthermore, if one puts oneself out there as a cut above the rest — artist, poet, flagpole sitter — one is as open to criticism as to celebration and praise. In this narrow case, Hurley’s perfectly reasonable criticism has to do with process. The quality of this poet’s work isn’t the issue.

Mike Silverton

Belfast

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Professor dismayed by poetry flap

I’ve been reading about the recent flap over the Belfast Poet Laureate with dismay. I am a poet and associate professor of poetry, currently based in Chicago, but was fortunate to spend more than a year living in Belfast recently for a writing project.

While there, even though I didn’t know any of the poets beforehand, I was welcomed into the local scene, and worked often with Linda Buckmaster, the rest of the “Fab Four,” and other area poets, participating in projects including the Belfast Poetry Festival (for which I served on the committee), the library lecture series, Poems Downtown, the New Year’s By the Bay reading, and other fantastic events. I was astounded at the level of professionalism and artistry with which such events were held; on a volunteer basis, Belfast’s poets put a ton of work into making high-quality poetry relevant and accessible.

I plan to move permanently to Belfast, and one reason is because, despite its size, the cultural resources in Belfast are world-class, and I like to think of it as a community that supports the arts and its local artists, and integrates things like poetry into the life of its citizenry. I love that Belfast has a poet laureate: it is at once a jovial and very serious position, a testament to the cultural history of the area; and the folks who have served in it are skilled poets of reputation and experience, with high standards for literary quality. As it should be: who else could organize, staff and run so many excellent poetry events on a very tight budget and no salary?

The fact that the poet laureate position has been filled by experienced, professional writers benefits the whole community, and means that the position is a true tribute to the poet’s own work and regional or national reputation, honoring the memory of the first Belfast Poet Laureate, renowned innovator Bern Porter. And even though the ratio of poet to general populace there is perhaps higher than average, Belfast only has so many such poets, and, as befits a small, friendly town, they are all pals. That is to be expected: I can assure you, even in big cities, most well-known poets know each other and enjoy hanging out together.

I urge the city council to continue to bestow this laurel on poets like Barbaria Maria and the other past laureates, who bring the fullness of their expertise to enrich the literary life of the town. I hope that by the time I settle in Belfast, the position will still be in its current iteration: I look forward to the continuation of excellent poetry events in town, and I’d be honored to apply for the position and work on behalf of the community in this capacity myself one day.

Arielle Greenberg

Evanston, Ill.

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A poetic recounting of recent events

The disturbed poets of Belfast Maine

Raised their eyebrows in disdain

 

With no Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen

To lead them on and keep it going

 

Only one lady in town could be found

Her poetry was the best in town

 

But Michael Hurley in his government seat

Suggested the process was incomplete

 

The pain he caused reverberates

From Goosepecker Ridge to Swan Lake

 

Serious punishment is only fair

Chain him in his underwear

 

Leave him in the town square

Maybe then he’ll learn to care

 

If we teach him to be kind

He’ll think twice before he speaks his mind.

Sam Ladd

Belfast

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Paul vs. the poets

The following is a poem that was written in response to a [guest column] by Joshua Bodwell decrying Governor LePage’s decision to not include poetry in the inauguration (TRJ, Jan. 5):

We have a new guv

And he doesn’t love

Poetry.

Maine poets are sad

And even a tad

Angry.

He thinks we are boring,

We set people snoring

Daily.

We must let him know

That by spewing we sow

Beauty.

And sometimes we (hopefully) amuse.

Kathleen Fox

Tenants Harbor