Plymouth plans to appoint Poet Laureate for 400th commemoration
For millennia, poets have given voice to the soul of the human experience, helping to put into words the things people feel - or should feel.
PLYMOUTH - For millennia, poets have given voice to the soul of the human experience, helping to put into words the things people feel - or should feel. They allow people to view their existence from a different perspective by putting into words ethereal concepts of life, love and mortality.
To give voice to the Plymouth experience, the town will be getting its own poet laureate. Next April, during the opening ceremony of the Plymouth 400th anniversary commemoration, the person appointed to this honorary position will read an original poem about the meaning of this important event to history and Plymouth's consciousness.
The Plymouth Regional Economic Development Foundation voted Tuesday to fund a poet laureate so the town can let the world know about its commitment to the arts and humanity during 2020 and beyond. In addition, the position is expected to have a positive impact on economic development.
Former selectman and Foundation President Bill Hallisey said having a poet laureate helps Plymouth put its best foot forward at a time when the global spotlight is on the town.
"As we prepare for the 400th celebration, we are inviting the world to celebrate with us," he said. "We are ready to show the world our talents, and one way we can do that is by giving one of our residents a platform to showcase who we are as a community. Other communities that have a similar program have reported that a poet laureate contributes, in a meaningful way, to the town's identity as a place that is global, wealthy, prosperous, fun and open to new investment. People want to be where there is culture, and businesses want to be where there is talent."
Various communities, including Boston and Cambridge, have appointed poet laureates to help strengthen their positions as a well-rounded communities, which is important for building tourism and the creative arts industry. This commitment also helps attract new businesses while retaining existing companies by demonstrating the town's desire to be culturally significant.
"I think this is an important next step in the evolution of an advanced and complex economy," said state Rep. Matt Muratore, who serves on the Foundation board. "Arts and culture are already a prominent part of the community. The Plymouth poet laureate will be our cultural ambassador."
He added, "The creative economy represents 4.3 percent of the Massachusetts economy - approximately $23 billion. Plymouth is taking an active role in attracting more of that activity, and PRDEF showed leadership by creating this program as a gift to the whole town."
A committee headed by Stephen Cole, executive director of The Plymouth Foundation, as PRDEF is also known, is developing the criteria by which the poet laureate will be selected. Guidelines and requirements are being drafted and approved so nominations can be requested from the public.
Cole said the position will be open to anyone with at least three original poems published and has a connection to Plymouth. If selected, that person will be required to attend the Thanksgiving Parade, Fourth of July, Waterfront Festival and Inauguration Day. The position will include an honorarium and badge of office.
A competitive process will determine who will be the poet laureate. Each nominee must submit a written work about a person from Plymouth's past. A public presentation of the semi-finalists with readings will be held.
"We want the nominees to write poems that tell the community about a person from Plymouth's past who we may not know about," Cole said. "This person should be someone who did something extraordinary to preserve our values as a community."
More information about the poet laureate nomination process will be announced in the next few weeks. The program is expected to launch on Nov. 1 with the poet laureate being selected in time to speak at the Plymouth 400 Commemoration Opening Ceremony on April 24 at Memorial Hall.
Cole has been championing a poet laureate within his foundation. When asked about the reasons for having the position, he cited numerous cultural and economic advantages, then offered a quote from John Adams, a founding father of the American Republic and second president of the country. It comes from a letter written by Adams to his wife Abigail and is about as poetic as anything the Quincy lawyer ever wrote:
"The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain."
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