November 7, 2014

Strive to Become a Poet Laureate

By Robert Scott

For decades I dreamed about winning the Boston Marathon, pulling away from the Kenyans on Boylston Street, dashing past grimy watering holes I knew as an undergrad, and being crowned outside the public library with a gaudy ring of laurel leaves. Sadly, for me to win the Boston Marathon, the Road Runners’ Association would have to discount the 15,000 runners who would finish ahead of me. There are no two ways to slice it; that’s a lot of disqualifications. Needless to say, I was thrilled to wear the laurel leaf crown at my nomination as one of Prince William County’s inaugural poets laureate. It still took decades of work to get here, but I didn’t have to muscle through any twenty-mile training runs.

Like anyone who works at the craft of poetry, I have a pudgy file filled with pieces in which I efficiently emulate someone else. I have 40 or 50 that sound like Edgar Poe, 50 or 60 that mimic Walt Whitman, another 30 where I echo Edna Millay. You get the idea.

Finding my poetic voice was as much a marathon of working and waiting and tinkering and listening as it was any wellspring of inspiration or creativity. If there is a message I hope to bring to Prince William County, it is exactly that: There is nothing special about me. Anyone can do this. I work at the craft of writing poetry like Ryan Hall works at winning the Boston Marathon. I have embraced my own poetic voice - a literate, ADHD, seventh grade boy, hopped up on triple espressos. That’s how I describe it. Five or ten years from now it will be different, because I’ll be different. There’s nothing quite like pushing the rock up the hill and waiting to see what comes next. Embracing the evolving sound of my own writing has been difficult to do, but it’s essential if I’m going to tell the truth with any credibility. That's the risk writers new to poetry have to take; it's my job now to inspire them.

If I can help would-be writers get started, perhaps try their hand at poetry, even if it sounds a bit like Edgar Poe, I’ll have done my job as poet laureate. This was the inspiration behind my “10,000 Poems” project. Prince William County is a community of 500,000. There are easily 10,000 people living here who have creative ideas they’ve been wanting to write down. If I can build momentum behind those unwritten poems – from people who’ve never considered themselves poets – if they’ll pick up a pen and take a risk, then I’ll consider my tenure as poet laureate a success. I'm hoping to convince 10,000 of Prince William's teachers, students, plumbers, cops, nurses, and construction workers to submit their writing in what will be a permanent testament to the poetic voice of our community. 

Along the way, I’ll get to hear my own voice change, even if I’ve given up wearing the laurel leaves.
Robert Scott is a high school English teacher in Manassas, Virginia. He's published an epic adventure series, The Eldarn Sequence, and a pair of horror/crime novels, 15 Miles and Asbury Park with The Orion Publishing Group in London, and a collection of short stories for young readers, The Great M&M Caper, here in the US.  His latest novel, "Emails from Jennifer Cooper," is due for release later this year.  For more information visit Robert's web site:

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