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May 31, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - A bill establishing an official poet laureate in Minnesota met a tragic fate.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty penned the fatal verse when he vetoed the bill. The Republican governor took the action Friday but didn't announce it until Tuesday.
"Even though we have a state 'folklorist,' I also have concern this will lead to calls for other similar positions," Pawlenty wrote in letter accompanying the veto. "We could also see requests for a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter."
In the letter, Pawlenty professed his respect and appreciation for the arts but said he had to draw the line at creating the new position.
Minnesota would have joined its neighboring states, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, with official poet laureates. At least half of the states have an official laureate, according to the Academy of American Poets.
"It sends the message that the arts are valued. Too often when people are talking about the arts they leave out poetry," said academy executive director Tree Swenson. "Poetry was the primary art in ancient times."
There is also a national poet laureate, Ted Kooser. He receives a stipend of $35,000 for each one-year term, but the state poet wouldn't have received tax dollars.
Minnesota established a folklorist in 1976 to promote Minnesota folklife by helping coordinate festivals, exhibits and classroom teaching.
Lawmakers could still write the final stanza, though. The bill passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly, so a veto override isn't out of the question.
Sponsoring Rep. Barb Sykora, R-Excelsior, said she was surprised but not discouraged by the action of her fellow Republican, Pawlenty.
"I'm not weeping crocodile tears over this, but that does not mean I will not bring it back," she said.
When lawmakers voted on the bill, Sykora told colleagues a poet laureate could revive what she considers a dying art.
Minnesota is the birthplace of award-winning poets Robert Bly and Richard Eberhart.
The poet laureate would have been encouraged to appear at ceremonies and state celebrations, and get students excited about poetry.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)