Poet Laureate Commission

October 9, 2008


Thank you all for joining us today.  Can we have a round of applause for our gracious hosts – and might I add our neighbors – here at St. John’s College?  President Nelson, thank you for inviting us to join you on this beautiful campus.

St. John’s College honors the written word in a unique and special way, with it’s curriculum based on the Western tradition’s greatest books.  Of all the great places of arts, letters and scholarship in our country, I can think of nowhere better than St. John’s to discuss the search for a poet laureate – and we are fortunate that this remarkable place is right here in Maryland – where it’s stood for centuries.

Poet Laureate Commission

A few months before he signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, President Johnson spoke before a gathering of artists at the White House, saying quote:

 “No people can afford to neglect the creative minds among it. They enrich the life of the Nation. They reveal the farthest horizons of man's possibility.  And Government--as representative of all the people--should always play a role in stimulating our people.”   

At the end of the day, our greatness as a State and as a people is about so much more than how many smart bombs we can drop on our enemies half a world a way – it’s about our shared humanity,… It’s about how many smart and compassionate hands we can extend to our neighbors.  It’s about the world we pass on to the next generation.  And it’s about the ways we invest and value all those things which define the character of our State – our public lands and waterways, our students and schools, and yes – our cultural heritage. 

Since 1959, eight of our finest writers have agreed to serve as Maryland Poet Laureate.  We are here today to announce the Chair of the selection committee which will recommend the 9th.

But first I wanted to offer a profound word of thanks to our current Poet Laureate, Michael Glaser, who has inspired Marylanders young and old to enjoy poetry.  He has worked with hundreds of teachers and over 7,000 school children in both public and private schools.  He has read poems in nearly every county in Maryland, at schools and libraries, at community centers and civic group meetings, at writers’ conferences, poetry festivals, art galleries, retirement villages, museums, and houses of worship. 

Michael is an accomplished poet who has published 500 of his poems in literary journals, newspapers, and anthologies.  He has edited two anthologies of Maryland poetry.  And he serves as Professor Emeritus at St. Mary’s College. 

While Michael couldn’t be with us this afternoon, he asked us share with you these words: “I have treasured the opportunity totravel the length and breadth of this State and share with so many of the good people of Maryland a sense of the great value that both reading and writing poetry can have on our spirits and our lives as citizens.”

To help us fill Michael’s very big shoes, it is my pleasure to announce that Alice McDermott will chair our Poet Laureate Selection Committee.  Alice is a Maryland resident and nationally acclaimed novelist.  Her fourth novel, Charming Billy received the 2008 Corrington Award for Literary Excellence.  We are very, very lucky she has volunteered to serve our State and lead this process.

We plan to put Alice to work right away as the deadline for nominations is December 1, 2008.  We will announce the new 2009 Poet Laureate in January, with the Maryland State Arts Council administering the selection process. 


I’d like to leave you today with some words that President Kennedy delivered as he memorialized Robert Frost, the great American poet who had served in the position which would later be known as “Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress”:

“I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.”

Thanks for joining us. 

View Press Release - Read Alice McDermott's Remarks


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