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Ohio's New Laureate Hopes to Promote Literacy and an Appreciation of Poetry

photo of Dave Lucas
HEIDI ROLF
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Dave Lucas teaches poetry at Case Western Reserve University. He was appointed Ohio's second ever poet laureate by Gov. John Kasich.

How does someone become Ohio’s poet laureate?

“One is anointed by the gods,” quips Ohio’s newest poet laureate, Dave Lucas.

'The relationship between government and the arts should be tenuous.'

At the beginning of the year, Lucas succeeded fellow Clevelander Amit Majmudar to become the state’s second-ever poet laureate. Gov. John Kasich, who created the position in 2014, chose Lucas from three finalists culled by the Ohio Arts Council.

According to the council, the poet laureate is expected to “foster the art of poetry, encourage literacy and learning, address central issues relating to the humanities and heritage, and encourage the reading and writing of poetry across the state.”

What that actually means, however, largely depends on the poet laureate.

“The role of the poet laurate depends on the particular interests of the person who’s in that position,” Lucas said.

Lucas acknowledged that the government and artists can sometimes be viewed as odd bedfellows.

“I think the relationship between government and the arts should be tenuous,” he said.

'Holding language to account for how it sounds and what it means is often at odds with the narratives that come out of governments.'

But Lucas believes poets, with their scholarly and obsessive insight into language, can be a positive influence in a realm where people rarely mean what they say.

“Holding language to account for how it sounds and what it means is often at odds with the narratives that come out of governments,” Lucas said. “No matter who’s in power, I think that’s the case.”

Being Ohio’s poet laureate isn’t a full-time gig. Lucas will keep teaching at Case Western Reserve University and living in Cleveland Heights during his two-year appointment.

“I did laundry today, and that felt very poetic.”

Hear Dave Lucas read his poem, "Lives of the Saints"
 

dave_lucas_reading.mp3
"Lives of the Saints" by Dave Lucas