Wednesday, April 26, 2006

COLUMN -- Poet laureate, maybe not, but poet pundit gives it a shot

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:48 AM |  

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

He's got a good job. Barton Eastman Sutter of Duluth was named the first official poet laureate to serve a Minnesota city. I didn't read how long Sutter gets to hold that title, but across the pond a poet laureate is appointed for life by the king or queen. He becomes a member of the royal household and is expected to write poems celebrating occasions of national importance and honoring the royal family.

My guess is "poet laureate" would carry a little more prestige on the resume than, say, "hobby columnist." Not that I'm not happy with the hobby columnist tag. Nor would I be especially anxious to move in with the Mayor Colemans and share Thanksgiving dinner with an extended family that includes the columnist across the river who gave me that title. Nonetheless, if his brother Chris feels slighted about not having a poet laureate in the capital city, I offer my services.

I could wax poetic on the Twins stadium issue with "Rep. Finstad at the Bat."

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the valiant stadium foes,
Lawmakers appeared ready to tie the ballpark up with bows.
It passed the tax committee, then flew through Ways and Means.
Boosters cheered and waved Twins caps; opponents vent their spleens.

A wearied few who know the score sighed in deep despair.
Few clung to the distant hope that someone might play fair
And let the Hennepin County folks vote upon the tax
That put the burden of the ballpark squarely on their backs.

The Pioneer Press threw in the towel, so did the Star Tribune,
They opined oh so eloquently, "Let's build it. Build it soon."
"It's but 3 cents on $20. That's a paltry sum to pay
"To have outdoor baseball — and make the problem go away."

Brad Finstad pitched for the stadium shills; he said, "We must decide.
"For another decade, we just can't let this ride."
"We must have firm closure (but it must turn out just so),
"And there is nothing final about an answer that is 'no.'"

In Moorhead and Mankato, the sun is shining bright.
In Comfrey where Brad Finstad hails, indeed the hearts are light.
And Twins fans all across the state are all prepared to shout …

But there is no joy in Hennepin —
The referendum has struck out.

Ok, it needs a little work. Maybe pithy is better. A poet laureate is master of many poetic forms. A limerick best befits celebration of the Dave Thune-inspired St. Paul smoking ban.

Councilman Dave was a bit of a twit,
Lacking both willpower and wit.
So he told you and me
That no smoking there'd be
Because that would help him to quit.

Well, maybe that doesn't exactly capture the celebratory requirement of a poet laureate. But I can work on that. I can also do solemn — a haiku to celebrate both the natural magnificence and power of the Mississippi River and the incisive logic of Mayor Chris Coleman's levee decision.

The river runs high,
The airport lies in water —
Your dike was ugly.

Too heavy, huh? If it's light and fanciful that's needed, there's always the Dr. Seuss touch:

In our Minnesota, where men mean what they say,
And women are women and like it that way,
A marriage accord is what we must reach.
A man and a woman, it takes one of each.

If Bill marries Stew, then what will we do?
Next we'll have a polygamous hullabaloo.
Mary-Kate marries Ashley — just imagine that.
Then your kid might marry the Cat in the Hat.

Yertle the Turtle might be next of kin
Unless he and your daughter are living in sin.
And let's not think of the family zoo
If YOUR son were engaged to Thing One and Thing Two.

If gay people marry, the world surely must end.
Gender, surely, is nothing to bend.

Yes, it is a gift, thank you. Mayor Coleman, I await your call. In the meantime, I'll hang on to the day job.