The term "laureate" refers to the ancient custom of
crowning victorious athletes with a laurel wreath, and, historically,
the poet laureate is the champion of the literary world. Their
work is to express the highest level of understanding and artistic
insight in the fewest number of words. But the post comes with
a responsibility: to promote within the community a greater appreciation
of poetry—its ability to express insights into human experience
that seem to elude "ordinary" language.
The poet laureate is also
the single writer in each state who, for a time, has the loudest,
clearest voice. The laureate has the potential to have the ear
of government officials and educational leaders who can most
effectively generate change—in the classroom
and the community at large.
But why a poet
laureate? With the exception of an occasional artist laureate
or writer laureate, this honor seems reserved for poets. Poetry
and People: Nations of the Mind will explore what it is about
poetry that warrants this kind of attention and importance—and
the effect poetry can have on the community at large.