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Fresno Pentameter

from The New York Times

Recognition Grows for Poets of Streets, Main or Otherwise


Jim Wilson/The New York Times

FRESNO, Calif. — This city has long been an object of ridicule. Even seemingly innocuous details like the flatness of the land, reinforced by the sea of ranch-style houses, take on a pejorative hue. Midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the western gateway on Highway 99 to Yosemite National Park, Fresno is not a destination but “a bathroom stop,” in the words of its poet laureate.

Yes, Fresno inaugurated its first poet laureate on April 22, formally embracing a rich poetic history that, though widely acclaimed in literary circles, had received little recognition here.

Fresno joins a rapidly growing list of cities and towns across the nation with their own official bards; in just the past few months, not only have Houston and Los Angeles established poet laureateships but so have Boise, Idaho; Key West, Fla.; McAllen, Tex.; and San Mateo County, near San Francisco.

Ashley Swearengin, the city’s mayor, said Fresno realized that there was “a missing piece” in its ability to express itself. So the city decided on a poet laureate “to express what it’s like to be in Fresno, what life is like on the ground here, and to really capture the essence of our community, to bind us as a community and help to represent to the outside world what our community is like.”

Fresno, which is providing a $2,000 stipend for a two-year term, chose James Tyner, 37, an award-winning poet, a full-time librarian and the author of a chapbook of poetry, “The Ghetto Exorcist.” At his inauguration, Mr. Tyner read from a poem he had composed for the occasion, “Fresno, California. 2013,” which began:

I am Fresno.

I am the high school kid that can’t wait to get out of this town,

there’s nothing to do here, nothing ever happens, waiting

for that last summer, before heading out of town.

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Posted on May 10, 2013 by Editor

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