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‘The unacknowledged legislators of the world’

May 27, 2019

Given the profound rarity of our city’s media covering the cherished, high and fine art of poetry, I felt a spark of hope to see Steve Terrell’s Roundhouse Roundup (“Poet of enchantment, wherefore art thou?” April 14), despite the fey headline.

This hope extinguished as I slogged through Terrell’s long and tediously detailed ride along the low road of the four other states with no laureate and his cynical closing question of whether any New Mexican is sufficiently capable to inspire a similar call for removal if appointed.

This was the predictably cliché, cheeky closing line of an opinion writer, but it felt especially weak and demoralizing on a spring Sunday, let alone one during National Poetry Month, which he failed to note.

Why does your thin paper persist in underscoring our state’s pathetic standing? Sure, in some cases this is the tough love we require — though you’ve yet to foment change — but in a case like this, it’s a snide waste of time. The clear path here is instead to observe those 40-plus states with a successful legacy in order to inspire our people and point our oft-clueless bureaucrats to the steps forward.

Poetry has been at the heart of the life of mindful civic entities since the dawn of civilization. God created the world with the word, and poetry is by far the only art akin to this basis of creation. You need no materials, no money, no electricity — simply a human heart and soul. Almost anyone can grab an instrument, paint tube or computer and generate spectacle, but precious few adepts can wield the word to save a planet or calm the king.

English poet Percy Shelley heralded poets as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Our community is replete with such leaders whose pens are mightier than the swords of businessmen and politicians. Within a good hour, one could assemble a cadre who would easily invoke a laureate program deeper and wider in vision, promise and impact than the measly outlines of the state’s attempt thus far — and at far less expense than Terrell rightly notes seems excessive for the meager duties ascribed.

Indeed, with the tax-and-spenders now running amok and yet another Roundhouse session of facile symbolism and missed opportunity in the books, who better than poets to show the state and its purported representatives and administrators how to express the inexpressible, create being out of nothing, raise the spirits of young and old, and inspire all people to manifest the nascent promise of our sacred lives and sacred land? Moreover, to do so with little to no money?

Poets have generations of towering experience at such craft, in no small part thanks to the media’s insensitivity and unwillingness to cover their news.

John Feins is a Santa Fe-based freelance communications director.

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