Here’s the letter the Foundation for Public Poetry had published in the Calgary Herald. The next day, Calgary City Council voted 13-2 in favour of having a Poet Laureate.
By Jack Locke, Calgary Herald July 24, 2011
Funding a poet laureate position can be the wisest investment a government makes. A poet can, and often does, help a community see the daily flaws and foibles that are commonplace. A poet can put those things we take for granted into a new perspective. A poet can illuminate the tiniest detail of daily life so that citizens become more considerate. A poet can help our technologically lusting world from becoming inhumane.
As Calgary’s city council debates the details of creating a poet laureate, I’d have to admit the principle is a great one. However, if city council does not see the great benefit from adequately funding such a position with municipal funds, then they should forgo the position.
An annual $10,000 contribution by the city is like the dandruff that falls from my scalp, almost imperceptible in the global scheme of things. If the city municipal corporation cannot pay a poet a decent sum, then $10,000 solicited from private funders is frankly an insult.
Calgary’s poet laureate should be compensated in a manner commensurate with Calgary’s reputation as a world-class city.
Jack Locke is poet-in-chief at the Foundation for Public Poetry.