Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hearing The New Missouri Poet Laureate

Tuesday night I attended a reading locally by Walter Bargen, the new, and I might add first Missouri poet laureate, as well as Kevin Rabas a poet who makes his home in neighboring Kansas.

The event was well attended. In fact additional seating had to be added. It was my first experience hearing either of these poets though I have read some of Bargen’s work since the announcement of his selection to the post.

Rabas was enjoyable enough. He has a lot of energy and the substance of what he read was far superior to the manor in which it was delivered. I felt he was rushing to finish each poem.

Bargen was well received. I would like to have heard more poetry, but I'll admit I as well as everyone else in the room seemed to be enjoying the antidotes related to his new found fame as poet laureate.

My early impressions of our new state poet laureate are positive ones. The Governor's selection was an individual whose body of work is impressive and his delivery in public is adequate and with time will likely improve. I especially like that from what I have thus far been exposed to of his work, it appears quite eclectic, and he will likely embrace a wide range of poetics as his own work covers a wide spectrum. This is encouraging to me.

The minimal requirements the Governor's office made as far as public appearances is appalling to me. If the Poet Laureate is going to be charged with promoting poetry within the state, there should be far more public outreach than 6 events in a two year term. I'm happy to say that Walter Bargen has been booking events weekly. I hope we will see some kind of public awareness program develop to infuse poetry into our state culture at various levels. At any rate, Bargen’s own reading was enjoyable and provides a basis for optimism about the future course for the position of Poet Laureate in Missouri.

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