This Olympiad, Maryland Has a Poet, as well as Athletes, to Cheer
We hope that Gov. Robert Ehrlich is brimming with Olympic spirit when time comes for the ceremony recognizing Michael Glaser as Marylands new poet laureate. For if the governor is Olympic-minded, hell forego mere paper and photographic testimonials in favor of a crown of laurel leaves. The memory of how ancient Greeks honored their hero athletes and artists has stayed with us in the word laureate, for one whose fame will live evergreen.
Thats symbolism our athlete-governor ought to like.
Whether or not he honors our new laureate with laurel, we like this sign that the Ehrlich administration is mindful of the arts and particularly of poetry.
The elevation of Glaser, a St. Marys College poet-professor, as the laureate of the Ehrlich administration is good news for others reasons as well. It brings poetry out of dry books into a spotlight that shines more commonly in our time on the poetry of the body in motion. Now we can cheer Glaser just as we do the swimmers, gymnasts and runners who are winning their laurels in Athens this week.
Poetry is as perfect an art as the athleticism of the young women and men who are our Olympians. Like athletes with sport, poets strive to perfect activities all of us do everyday with lesser grace.
Just as the Olympian athletes job is to show us how sublimely the body can blend form and function, the poet shows us how the perfect words can illuminate the inner life we all share.
Thats what Glaser tells interviewer Sara Leeland this week: I think a poem
the whole emotional realm inside that we have a hard time honoring in our culture. It evokes a sharing of our humanness.
Part of the magic of poetry is form, just as form is part of the mastery that awes us in Olympic competition. All storytelling puts order thus form and meaning on the uncharted territory of living. With its allegiance to formal traditions as strict as Olympic rules, poetry is the most orderly wordly art. Every word counts in poetry, and every word falls into patterns we appreciate even if we dont understand.
The form reassures us, but its the words we rise to, just as we leap from our seats when an athlete nears a perfect 10. We love the sense and song and shimmer of words when they get together to score a poem.
And we love it best of all when those wondrous words speak to and for us. Thats the specialty of Michael Glaser, who writes of our plain, everyday Chesapeake lives.
As laureate, Glasers job is to bring poetry to all of us Marylanders. Hell be visiting schools and, we hope, lots more forums for people of all ages. We hope youll listen when he comes your way, for just like the feats of Olympians, poetry will make your heart leap.