As you may or may not be aware, our new governor has opted not to continue the Poet Laureate Commission and has ended its annual $2000 funding, effective immediately.
Please note that this does not strip Bruce Dethlefsen of his post as Wisconsin Poet Laureate. Bruce was named to that position as one of the final acts of the previous governor, and his term as Poet Laureate will continue for the full two years. Without a Poet Laureate Commission, however, there would be no one to review or appoint new Poets Laureate after Bruce’s term ends.
Consequently, the Poet Laureate Commission has decided to continue its own existence, and its members are currently in discussion with possible umbrella organizations to give them a home. They’ve promised to reveal more information once things are settled.
Obviously, they are committed to continue naming new Poets Laureate in the future, with or without governmental approval. There are wrinkles to be considered, however, so they are being careful as they move forward. For further details on the Poet Laureate Commission’s situation, I refer you to this post on Cathryn Cofell’s Facebook page, http://on.fb.me/he32af, or to Jane Hamblen’s statement on the Verse Wisconsin Facebook page.
As for the WFOP’s role in this, you may recall that we have donated more than once to a fund to support the program permanently, and that we have given further to meet added expenses incurred by our Poets Laureate. The WFOP board intends to continue that sort of support in the future, believing that is your desire. (We will, of course, report to you any such giving, and will bring any large expenditures before the membership for a vote, as always. Given that the annual honorarium has been ended, I suspect we may wish to contribute to that fund when the need comes up early next year.)
In closing, I would like to speak personally about the situation. On the one hand, I might credit Governor Walker with making this decision in keeping with a no-nonsense attitude toward budgeting. On the other, I suspect that he could have found some way to continue the program, even if he felt funding was unwarranted. From what I have learned of his history, however, I suspect that the governor does not view the “liberal” arts with a friendly eye.
Personally, I would suggest that you spread the news of his decision now, far and wide, while the topic of his budget bill is hot. Whether people agree or disagree with that bill, I believe most will see this decision to discontinue the Poet Laureate Commission as an unnecessarily frugal, if not downright foolish, abandonment of Wisconsin’s arts community.
Thank you for your time and efforts on behalf of Wisconsin poetry.
President, Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets