Outgoing laureate liked making poetry relevant - KMOV.com

Outgoing laureate liked making poetry relevant

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri poet laureate Walter Bargen said he was not expecting a new job when he took the unpaid position that over the last two years has taken him to 100 places to read poetry to 10,000 people.

But the poet from central Missouri said his time as poet laureate has given him a chance to demonstrate the importance of language and make it relevant for people.

"I was quite naive to the amount of interest that would be generated with the position," Bargen told the Columbia Missourian. "Now I feel like I've been able to bring poetry out of the dust bin and back to the people in ways I never thought I could."

Missouri created the poet laureate position in 2008 by an executive order. Gov. Jay Nixon in December created a a five-person advisory committee -- with first lady Georganne Nixon as the honorary chairwoman -- to help him pick Bargen's successor.

The next poet laureate must be a resident of Missouri, a published poet, active in the poetry community and willing to promote poetry during at least six appearances at public schools and libraries. The poet laureate also is to compose an original poem in honor of Missouri.

At least 40 states have their own poet laureate.

Bargen, 61, lives in the small town of Ashland between Jefferson City and Columbia and works at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Bargen completed his first poem during his junior year of high school and has now published 13 books of poetry. His work has been published in more than 100 magazines.

Now Bargen said he is looking forward to being able to write again.

"If I was retired, it would be pure joy, but having to do the balance between having a full-time job and being the poet laureate definitely creates a certain anxiety," he said.

Members of the advisory committee who selected Bargen two years ago said he has done far more than they expected and helped promote the state's long poetry tradition.

"He's done more for Missouri poetry than anyone I can think of," commission member Kevin Prufer said. "I wish we could keep him forever."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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