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Arts and Entertainment

The City Of Malibu Will Soon Have Its Very Own Poet Laureate

(Photo by Keith Yahl via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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The land of endless summer will soon have its own official bard: earlier this month, the Malibu City Council approved the creation of a poet laureate position for the world's best-known beach city.

According to the Malibu Times, the council also approved a selection process for the position, along with "the requirement that the individual be a Malibu resident or strongly affiliated with Malibu in some way." The soon-to-be-selected hyper-local laureate will serve a two-year term and receive a $1000 stipend.

The concept of a poet laureate—a writer appointed by a government or institution who typically is expected to represent that body in some way—dates back to classical Greece. The practice fell by the wayside for a time, before being resurrected in Renaissance Italy.

The U.S. has had some version of a poet laureate since 1934, though the position has only officially been called that since 1985 (before that, the prominent poet in question was known as "the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress"). Los Angeles selected the fabulous Eloise Klein Healy as the city's inaugural poet laureate in December 2012.

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The creation of the Malibu poet laureate position was spearheaded by local resident Ann Buxie, who coordinates a long-standing regular community poetry and storytelling event called “Tales by the Sea." The final candidate will be selected by a panel under the guidance of Dr. John Struleoff, Chair of the Creative Writing Department at Pepperdine University and an Esteemed Writing Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, according to the Malibu Cultural Arts Commission.

Despite the recent proliferation of poet laureate positions across the U.S. (enough of a trend to warrant a 2013 article in The New York Times, and another a year later), it often remains unclear what a laureate position actually entails.

Howard Nemerov, according to the Library of Congress, was only "half joking" when he wrote in 1963 that the "The Consultant in Poetry is a very busy man, chiefly because he spends so much time talking with people who want to know what the Consultant in Poetry does.” Nemerov, for the record, actually served two terms as America's most eminent poet: he was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1963 to 1964, and the U.S. poet laureate from 1988 to 1990. He was also Diane Arbus's brother, but that is neither here nor there (though arguably interesting nonetheless).

The Malibu Times reports that the city's poet laureate will be responsible for representing the city at selected cultural community events, working with the local library and schools to promote poetry, as well as helping to organize an annual poetry invitational.

“Each poet laureate will have their own ideas about what they want to do, and will want to make use of their own individual talents,” Buxie told the Malibu Times.

According to the L.A. Times, Buxie first presented her idea to the city's Cultural Arts Commission back in August, and the commission passed it on to the city council in September.

“We can’t live in cities that become deserts of the soul,” she told the L.A. Times. “We need to nourish the soul of the city. Poetry is one way to do that.”

The City of Malibu will begin taking applications for the position on Wednesday, and the application period will be open until January 11, 2017. They are hoping to have their first laureate selected by March, in time for April's National Poetry Month. So much for April being the cruelest month!

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