“It’s not a protest, it’s a timely celebration (of poetry),” said Joshua Bodwell, Executive Director of Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance at a gathering of writers in Longfellow Square today.
What made the the celebration timely was incoming Governor LePage’s stated exclusion of poetry from his inauguration today. Bodwell estimates that, at least since 1995, poetry has played a role in the State’s gubernatorial inaugural ceremony, mirroring the practice at the presidential inauguration.
To help the crowd celebrate, Maine’s Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl stood at Longfellow’s feet and read a Wesley McNair poem. When asked by a reporter how she responded to LePage’s “no frills” ceremony, she replied “To talk about ‘no frills’ as though art were ‘frills’ is dangerous to the culture and to the arts.”
Another participant at the gathering, Portland’s Poet Laureate Steve Luttrell sharpened Sholl’s point further: “Maine has been dubbed an ‘unfriendly place to do business,’ it can ill afford to be ‘unfriendly to the arts.'” Given the role of cultural tourism in the Maine economy, I couldn’t agree more.
Writer Bill Nemitz gave Longfellow the last word for LePage today in his Press Herald article:
“All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.”