Wisconsin Governor Pulls Funding for Poet Laureate
May 1, 2011
In February, the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission received a letter saying the governor’s office would not renew the order upholding the position of poet laureate, according to Bloomberg. This is just part Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget cuts which prompted over 70,000 of the state’s citizens to protest on the capitol. Walker’s budget, released on March 1, would cut $800 million from education and $500 million from Medicaid healthcare for the poor. Particularly, these cuts would shrink the state’s Arts Board funding by almost 70%.
“It’s just a smack in the face,” said current Wisconsin poet laureate, Bruce Dethlefsen. “In good times arts are magical, and in tough times they are essential. That’s when you need them the most. Art makes you human. If it’s just about the money, then it’s petty and vindictive.”
Jane Hamblen, co-chair of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, is drafting a letter to the governor seeking a compromise on the decision to not renew the position.
“Having a state-sanctioned position gives it a certain gravitas, respect,” said Hamblen. “Having an official position for a poet gives high school students the possibility to believe it’s as important as being a baseball player.”