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Issue Date: April 2005 Issue


The Poetry Biz

In addition to the deluge of haiku contests, free-verse workshops and spoken-word slams taking place this month, National Poetry Month, Cleveland Heights will choose its first-ever poet laureate (though it was home to the late Cuyahoga County poet laureate, Daniel Thompson). Lakewood, too, is searching for a No. 1 bard to be announced this summer.
Dalia Wheatt

In addition to the deluge of haiku contests, free-verse workshops and spoken-word slams taking place this month, National Poetry Month, Cleveland Heights will choose its first-ever poet laureate (though it was home to the late Cuyahoga County poet laureate, Daniel Thompson). Lakewood, too, is searching for a No. 1 bard to be announced this summer.

The Library of Congress appointed America's first "Consultant in Poetry" in 1937. Since then, Robert Frost, Conrad Aiken and Akron native Rita Dove have held the honor, among others.

To find out what it takes to break into the dog-eat-dog biz of stanzas and couplets, we researched poet laureates nationwide (33 states, not including Ohio, have official poet laureates). We also spoke with Carole Wallencheck, chairwoman of the Heights Arts poet-laureate advisory committee, and Steve FitzGerald, publisher of Lakewood

Buzz.com. We then crafted this job posting — which you will not find on Monster.com — for aspiring poets laureate on both sides of the Cuyahoga River.

Seeking Poet Laureate

Job description: Progressive suburbs seek wordsmith to serve as poet laureate for a term of one to two years. Essential responsibilities include implementing programs and events encouraging an appreciation for poetry — and not just the random-word, fridge-magnet kind.

Salary: $200-$1,000 per term, which will buy you plenty of high-end ballpoint pens for your lyrical endeavors.

Benefits: Bragging rights. Also includes the opportunity to be published online and in books, including "Favorite Lakewood Poetry."

Qualifications: Cleveland Heights candidates must be of legal age to get a "BEST POET" tattoo without parental consent. Lakewood applicants of all ages encouraged to apply. All office-seekers must hold a poetic license.

Education level: Bachelor's degree from the University of Life or other accredited institution. Training in the art of spontaneous guerrilla street poetry is highly desirable.

Grounds for dismissal: Suburbs reserve the right to terminate poet laureate for excessively belligerent compositions, which were the downfall of former New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka. When Baraka refused to resign as poet laureate, Gov. James McGreevey asked the state legislature to abolish the position, which it did in 2003.


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