City considers Saratoga Springs Poet Laureate

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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Springs is considering launching a civic position recognizing an outstanding local poet to serve as Saratoga Springs Poet Laureate.

“Why should we have one in Saratoga Springs? Well, why not us,” explained Rachel Baum, a city resident and former president of the NY Library Association, during a July 5 presentation to city council.

“We are not only about health, history and horses. We have Yaddo. We have the SPAC School of Arts. For 20 years we have had an open mic for poets at Caffe Lena, Saratoga Reads, the (NYS) Summer Writers’ Institute. Baum, highlighting the financial benefit to local businesses in cities hosting art-related events.

The title of poet laureate was first granted in England in the 17th century for poetic excellence, and its holder was a salaried member of the British royal house. The title derives from tradition dating back to early Greek and Roman times, when success was honored with a laurel wreath, a tree sacred to Apollo, patron of poets, according to Britannica.

In the United States, a Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress was established in the mid-1930s. The job title officially changed to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985. The American Poet Laureate, appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress, receives an annual stipend of $35,000 plus $5,000 for his travel expenses, all funded by a private donation and not the US government. Poets previously appointed to these positions include Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Pinsky, William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Frost.

Locally, representatives from local organizations will form a committee this summer and later in the year will evaluate nominations for the title. Suggested tentative deadlines are posting of the nomination form by August 15 and a deadline for submissions of September 15. Committee evaluations would follow and the mayor would announce the 2023 Poet Laureate in December this year.

In other council news, a public hearing was scheduled to take place on July 19 regarding the additional funding needed – above the 2022 capital budget amounts – for the construction of the East Side Fire/EMS facility. This additional amount is $1.348 million and is due to the increased costs of materials and services needed to complete the project, according to city documents.

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