Wanted: Someone To Write An Ode to a Urinal

Is there no one in Minnesota who can handle the job?

Poetry's strange and failed relationship with commerce complicates things all the more and may explain why there are poet laureates and not painter laureates. Bell wonders, "Perhaps it's because most artists have a chance to live on the income from their art. Poets do not."


If funding is a minor obstacle, then the Amiri Baraka brouhaha might be an alligator-infested moat. Baraka was the poet laureate of New Jersey before his now-infamous poem "Somebody Blew Up America" set off a shit storm in Trenton. The poem is considered by many to be anti-Semitic, idiotic, or both because it suggests that Israel had prior knowledge of the World Trade Center attack.

Raoul Benavides

Such occasional flashes aside, one might wonder why the poet laureate phenomenon stays in the news at all and why poetic fiefdoms keep popping up. Billy Collins has offered a theory: "Laureateship is part of our fascination with things British, like the Burberry trench coat. It's our pathetic, sad, postrevolutionary missing of all things British."

That may seem kind of cranky for a former poet laureate. Collins concedes that the laureateship draws the public's attention to poetry more successfully than the best verse does. If nothing else, the office will accomplish one thing: As Bell says, "The position itself recognizes that there are poets among us and that the arts matter."

Of course, we need a state bard like we need a state bird or a flag or another slice of blackberry-rhubarb crumble. Which is to say that although we probably could survive without loons or poets or even loony poets, why should we?


Ode to a Doughboy

Why Do So Many Writers Live with Their Mothers? Is There Verse to Be Found in Municipal Trash Collection? What Rhymes with Rick Kupchella? In Our Poet Laureate Grand Prize Showdown, City Pages Makes Sport out of Art.

Let us welcome Paul Westerberg, Tiny Tim, and the Pillsbury Doughboy into Minnesota's literary pantheon! As of this moment, their epic achievements and profound mythologies have been entered into the book of our great state.

This act is the handiwork of a specially convened panel of all-star poets. Having meditated on the fact that Minnesota wants for a poet laureate proper, City Pages decided to do our bit to remedy that lack. Minnesota, of course, already has the public utility known as Robert Bly, tirelessly pumping fresh air into our back yard. But there's only so much gas one man can emit. And so we chose five game and venerable writers--a cross section of Minnesota's best--to battle for the esteemed title of poet laureate in a no-holds-barred extreme poetry event.

Against common sense and perhaps common decency, the following competitors accepted our challenge: Miss Terri Ford, Dobby Gibson, Leslie Adrienne Miller, Ray Gonzales, and Bao Phi.

After the obligatory obstacle course--a grueling, you're-killing-me-man questionnaire--we asked the poets to write two short poems: one on a Minnesota personage and one on a Minnesota body of water. The topics were intended to be broad enough to invite a visitation by the muses, yet narrow enough to allow comparison by the People--that's you, reader. (These being poets, one writer characteristically declined to follow directions, choosing to pen a single, longer poem, instead. To see the complete and unabridged questionnaires and poet bios, please see www.citypages.com)

The poets did not disappoint. In addition to the aforementioned celebrities, our bards and "bardots" mused on Miss Saigon, ice rinks, and marsh hawks. Along the way, they coined such juicy phrases as "figment of a masturbation," "orgasm of a martyr," and "go in toto to Lake Dodo."

So will our elected representatives go in toto to Lake Dodo--which is to say, will they take these verses as a goad to select an official speaker for the state? Who knows, and--to be honest--who cares? As our experiment-cum-bloodsport shows clearly enough, when it comes to the business of picking poet laureates, there's no reason or rhyme. --William Waltz


Miss Terri Ford

Who would you rather read: Rod McKuen, Leonard Nimoy, or Jewel?

Hmmm. Would I rather die by fire, in an avalanche, or be banished to a hell where unicorns are dancing with rainbows?


Would you mind being called "Bard?"

It is wrong to call a girl Bard. You may call me Bardot.


Please include here the worst couplet or short stanza you've ever written:

Love is love, wherever you roam,
No one can explain it or put it in a poam.

(Hey, I was about six. My rhyming faculties have gone downhill since.)


Would you be willing to pose in a Poet Laureate Swimsuit Calendar?

I'd rather appear naked than appear in a swimsuit. At this age and at this stage, partially clothed is not advisable. All clothes, or none.


Which of these colors sounds the best: ochre, magenta, red?

Ochre. It sounds like lucre.


What rhymes with orange?

Syringe. Or lozenge. Well, sorta. Try finding a rhyme for linoleum, buddy, and then we'll talk!


Please pen a very short limerick in favor of municipal trash pickup.

There once was a princess in Bryn Mawr
Who constantly cleaned her boudoir
She threw out her powder
Her lipstick got louder
Would somebody call the Trash Czar?

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