Volume 12, Issue 33 ~ August 12 -18, 2004
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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 Maryland’s new poet laureate. For if the governor is Olympic-minded, he’ll 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.

That’s 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. Mary’s 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 athlete’s 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.

That’s what Glaser tells interviewer Sara Leeland this week: “I think a poem … can evoke … 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 don’t understand.

The form reassures us, but it’s 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. That’s the specialty of Michael Glaser, who writes of our plain, everyday Chesapeake lives.

As laureate, Glaser’s job is to bring poetry to all of us Marylanders. He’ll be visiting schools and, we hope, lots more forums for people of all ages. We hope you’ll listen when he comes your way, for just like the feats of Olympians, poetry will make your heart leap.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.