Gov. Scott Walker cuts poet laureate position, saves $2,000
One of the more contentious provisions in Gov. Scott Walker’s otherwise well-received budget plan is the elimination of the Wisconsin State Poet Laureate. The position was created in 2000 by noted free-verse enthusiast Tommy Thompson, and subsequently renewed by Jim Doyle, who may or may not have studied under the late Ted Berrigan in the early ’70s. In the past, this nefarious, beret-clad program bilked Wisconsin taxpayers to the tune of a cool $2,000 a year, and put them in dangerous proximity of folks who were thinking about releasing a chapbook sometime in the spring. No longer, proud Wisconsinites. No longer.
What exactly is (was?) expected of Wisconsin’s State Poet Laureate, you ask? According to the Library of Congress,
“The poet laureate is required to choose and lead one project that will contribute to the growth of poetry in this state subject to commission approval; plan and attend at least four statewide literary events each year; and perform in at least four government, state, and civil events as requested by the governor’s office, school systems, and literary organizations.”
The $2,000 was set aside for the poet’s travelling expenses, and to cover the cost of a carton of American Spirit cigarettes.
Gov. Walker’s failure to renew the program leaves Wisconsin’s current Poet Laureate, Bruce Dethlefsen, in a somewhat awkward position, though according to Jane Hamblen of the Poet Laureate Commission, he’ll ride out his term like a champ. Let this be a lesson: When times get tough, even our state’s grossly overpaid, government-appointed poets have to make some tough sacrifices.