That doesn't mean I didn't feel a strong pang of sympathy for poets in Montana when I came across this article (via ArtsJournal) in the Billings Gazette. It seems that some folks in Montana are eager to snag themselves a poet laureate:
Under the bill, the Montana Arts Council would supply the governor with the names of three qualified Montana poets. The governor would then appoint a poet from the list to hold the honorary post for two years. The poet laureate would receive no compensation but would promote the arts throughout Montana.
As I understand it, here's the deal: A clueless lawmaker has decided to class up the state, and what better way to promote the arts than to trot out a poet laureate? Since Senator John Cobb apparently believes poets are either (a) dumber than rocks, (b) independently wealthy, or (c) dumb and wealthy, it doesn't occur to him that some compensation might be in order for an individual who would be expected to traipse all over Montana yammering about how important Art is to our society.
"It's just a nice thing to do,'' Cobb said of the proposed post. "It doesn't solve any problems, but it's something the government does.''
Ah. Thank you for clearing that up, Senator. Many of us are aware that the government doesn't actually solve problems, so we're gratified to learn that its function is to do Nice Things for us. Like enslaving poets for our betterment.
"I think it's a grand idea,'' said Arni Fishbaugh, executive director of the Montana Arts Council. "Many other states have poet laureates, and Montana is known for the outstanding quality of its poets and writers."
Arni, I think we're all pretty clear on how you feel about poets and writers. They give, you take, and everybody's happy, right? I'm just wondering how an individual with such a low regard for artists managed to become executive director of the Montana Arts Council.
Sheesh. And here I thought romance writers didn't get no respect. My advice to poets in Montana: move. Montana doesn't deserve you.