poet laureate

V.H. Hammer

Starting this month nearly 200 new laws are now active in Florida. That might sound like a lot, but it’s actually just about a sixth of the bills filed with a July effective date this year. Political experts say a looming election year put a damper on both the number and content of bills passed last legislative session, but that isn’t stopping some of the people directly affected by the new rules from celebrating.

Scott Cunningham newspaper photo
O, Miami

Florida could soon appoint a cultural ambassador of sorts to help spread the word—about words. A bill creating a state poet laureate position seems poised to soon meet the governor’s pen.

The O, Miami Poetry Festival is going on now. The month-long fest is back for its fourth year. Executive Director and founder, 35-year-old poet Scott Cunningham, says the goal for this year’s fest is the same as always: “We try to deliver a poem to every single person in Miami-Dade County.”

(file photo)

Florida is one of nine states that don’t currently have a poet laureate. But for the second year in a row the Florida Senate is trying to change that.

State poet laureates have had a checkered history. Former Illinois laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, for instance, embodied her rough-and-tumble Chicago upbringing in her work.

But others have caught flak. New Jersey even went so far as to eliminate the position altogether when poet Amiri Baraka wrote what some saw as an anti-Semitic work in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and then refused to step down from his post.

A proposal to rate the financial health of public pension plans the same way private companies’ are rated, is meeting strong opposition from public workers’ unions. The measure made it past the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on Thursday after a lengthy debate.

Ed Skellings
Florida Institute of Technology

Florida would have a poet laureate appointed by the governor, if a bill passes the Legislature. The measure passed committees in the House and Senate this week.

Florida had a poet laureate, Ed Skellings, who was appointed for life. But he died last year, and Joe Cavanaugh, president of the Florida State Poets Association, is in Tallahassee this week, pushing for an overhaul of the poet laureate appointment process. The idea is for the governor to appoint a poet every four years. That person would spend time in schools.