Article by William Martin | Owl Staff

All of you struggling poets out there have likely drawn influence from a number of sources, those household names of great historical significance. And, indeed, there is a lot of fulfillment to be gained through studying their work.

However, “the trouble with life is that we imagine a fulfillment we can never have.” Maryland’s Poet Laureate Professor Stanley Plumly used this T.S. Elliott quote to explain his thoughts on who poetry is truly meant for.

What is a Poet Laureate, you may ask? It is the title granted to a poet officially appointed by the government or an established institution. The Poet Laureate is required to compose work for special occasions or events, often nationally, to better the public’s appreciation of poetry as a valid art form. At the highest level of importance is the United States Poet Laureate, but every state has one.

Plumly, appointed by Governor O’Malley in 2009, has taught at more than a dozen universities and given an estimated 25,000 readings. Among the collection of his own poetic works are Out-of-the-Body Travel, Boy on the Step, and Orphan Hours.

As a speaker who has visited various universities and schools from varying demographics Plumly is surprised by “how fascinated they all are for this kind of thing, and it had nothing to do with my writing.”

He adds, “You really have to be fascinated by this kind of language,” implying that whether or not his poetry in particular is influencing our perception, poetry is a language that requires a particular finesse. We all have that one piece that really speaks to us. Plumly states, “[Do not] give up on writing good poems, which means rewriting them until they’re right. It has to work for the audience; it has to be art…and art demands an audience.”

Plumly is not the only local expert to emphasize the importance of this art form. Professor Colleen Webster, who teaches Poetry I, II, and III at Harford Community College, enjoys poetry as “a distillation of experience in original and vigorous language, as an art form,” echoing Plumly’s words.

My own experience as a writer, however, has demonstrated that people will not investigate and become fascinated by such art if they are unaware of its existence. Here at HCC, we have a new registered student organization called the Ink Blot Club.

“[Do not] give up on writing good poems, which means rewriting them until they’re right.”

According to faculty advisor Laura Fox, the club is “…a student writing group whose purpose is to support and encourage each other. All writers are welcome.”

The club focuses on fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and plays. To find out more about this organization, check out “How to Start a Student Organization” on the next page.

As we go about pursuing our poetic aspirations, I highly recommend Plumly’s work and ideas. He offers a perspective that goes beyond the names we’ve all heard but captivates us in all the same ways.

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