Friday, February 26, 2010

On Poetry and Politics

The finals of the 2010 Vermont Poetry Out Loud (POL) recital competition is this Saturday (March 6). With more than 30 schools participating we've had to change our format and add a semifinal round prior to the final round. It should be an incredible day up at the College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

With the growing popularity of song and dance competition shows on television, Poetry Out Loud may be the closest many Vermont students get to tasting the the nervous energy (call it stage fright) that these shows are so good at turning into high drama (okay, "low drama"). Poetry Out Loud is a competition, with real benefits to the winners, and a great educational outcome for all who participate. And for family members who comprise most of the audience, it's pure theater.

In addition to a cash prize for him/herself and school, the winner of will attend the POL finals in Washington DC under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It's like the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee, only more lyrical. But before the Vermont winner goes to Washington DC in late April, he/she has an earlier commitment... our Annual Arts Advocacy Day on March 17th in Montpelier!

Advocacy is a tricky thing when times are as difficult as they are now. Much of my time is spent talking with (your) legislators about the arts in ways that are by now familiar to everyone who reads this blog.

But here's the real truth...

No one in Montpelier can talk to your legislators the way you can. You are the one with the meaningful story. You are the one with the child who had the incredible arts experience. You are the one who is the legislator's friend or the neighbor or relative. You are the one who presents local talent to the world for the first time, who entices visitors to spend time and money in your (legislators') community. You are the one composing the song, choreographing the dance, recreating the role, capturing the essence of the place in words or images or music in the district your legislators represent.

Your messages have far more meaning than mine because, frankly, yours is the vote that counts.

So, what is your story, and when was the last time you told it?

Talking to your legislators while they are home during the Town Meeting Day break is important. But please come to Montpelier as well--for three reasons that I can think of. A lot of people from all over the state come together in Montpelier, and it's a real morale-booster to see that you are not alone. We all learn from each other, and there are several dozen people who will listen to your pitch and help you refine it. And finally, your legislators will not only see that YOU think its important enough to make the trip, they will see other legislators getting the same treatment. It makes quite an impact.

So please come to Montpelier on the 17th. Let your legislators know you're coming (click HERE for their contact information), and stay to hear a poetry recitation from this year's state POL champ. It will be well worth the visit!

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