Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Somerville Bagel Bard Zvi Sesling gets Poet Laureate for Brookline

I am a lover of irony. It seems that a Somerville Bagel Bard Zvi A. Sesling( Who resides in Brookline) lobbied and spurred the city on to have a Brookline Poet Laureate. I told him about the lack of interest in our beloved burg and it inspired him to get one for his town...they finally saw the light. The light in Somerville is still way, way at the end of the tunnel...sadly. Here is an article by Sesling about how he did it...

Somerville Bagel Bard Zvi Sesling gets Poet Laureate for Brookline

Back in June 2008 I brought a proposal to the Brookline Board of Selectmen requesting they create a position of Poet Laureate for the Town of Brookline. I suggested the Brookline Council on the Arts, together with a citizen or two and a Selectman take applications, filter them and select one person for a two year term.

I thought the idea was a “no brainer.” I thought, despite the many difficult issues they had to deal with, they would, among their more trivial issues find a few minutes to approve the concept.

However, I guessed wrong. Perhaps they did not know or understand the wisdom, joy and education poetry imparts to readers. I had already explained to them that the cities of Boston and Cambridge have Poet Laureates as does the State of New Hampshire, where the legislature, in the middle of pressing issues of the economy, gay marriage and taxes still found the time to appoint a Poet Laureate.

Yet, Town of Brookline Board of Selectmen could not find even five minutes in one
year of meetings to take an action and could only benefit the town. I wrote letters to the local paper, asked four of the five Selectmen for help and got no where. One Selectman promised my wife to do something and then would not return phone calls.

Then, last year when I went to the polls to vote in a local election, I was telling Selectman Ken Goldstein about the idea and my frustration with the Board. He was in the second year of his first term and he said he would undertake the project. A few months later he and I appeared before the Brookline Council on the Arts with the proposal. The Council then undertook the project and did months of study, including looking into the Boston Poet Laureate contract. They moved forward, meeting, creating a contract and finally having Town Counsel (Brookline’s in house lawyer) review it. Selectman Goldstein and the Council on the Arts then brought it to the Selectmen who voted unanimously to approve the position for an initial two year period with a stipend of $1,000. Two banks, Bay State Federal Savings and Century Bank each contributed $500 to fund the position.

In his presentation Selectman Goldstein even read a poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to Julia Ward Howe which included a reference to Brookline.

The lesson I learned from all this is that it takes a committed city/town official, one who appreciates and supports the arts, who makes commitments and keeps them.

I know that Doug Holder has been trying to get the Somerville City Council to approve a Poet Laureate for the city – and there are some many wonderful poets in Somerville, many of whom, known as the Bagel Bards – meet weekly at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square.

Perhaps there is a City Councilor out there who will take up the issue and see it to fruition the way Ken Goldstein has done in Brookline.

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