Thank you and welcome.
I’m Mark Tiedemann, President of the board of directors of the Missouri Center for the Book. Many of my fellow board members are here today for this occasion. I’d like to ask them to stand now and be acknowledged.
Since 1993, the Center has worked diligently to promote what we call the community of the book in the state of Missouri, and among the finest programs with which we’ve been involved is this, the position of our newly created State Poet Laureate.
On behalf of the Missouri Center for the Book and the Community of the Book at large, I would like to thank you, Governor Matt Blunt, for establishing this post and for inviting the Center to assist in the selection of Missouri’s first Poet Laureate.
Members of the Missouri Center for the Book board, along with members of the governor’s staff, made up the selection committee that provided the final list from which the governor made his choice. All three of my selection committee members are here and if I may ask them to stand once more. Kevin Prufer, Kris Kliendeinst, and Sue Thomas have given exceptional service and we are all justly proud of them.
I would also like to express my deep appreciation to the Missouri Arts Council for its support, generosity, and timely assistance during the establishment of this program. Missouri Arts Council will support the Poet Laureate position through an honorarium and travel expenses.
Although I am a writer, I find myself at a loss to express how pleased and honored I feel to be here now, at this occasion, which goes to the heart of Missouri Center for the Book’s mission. We who love books have all experienced a moment in our lives when the wonders of the universe seemed to open for us through the written word. As unique and individual as that experience is, it has the ability to join us in a way like no other. Because we discover what it is to touch the fire sparked by the intellect and creativity of other people, and we recognize that fire within ourselves. That is what we mean when we say Words Live.
Unfortunately, for many people, youth passes, the necessities of adulthood steal our time, and we forget. We need reminding.
Which is why the importance of naming of a Poet Laureate cannot be measured, since in it is the very public act of reminding us. Reminding us that we are all still that twelve-year-old who found worlds in words. It says that what our storytellers, word weavers, literary architects, our Poets offer is valuable and should not be overlooked or forgotten. Through this act, a door will be opened for those who have not yet discovered what we here have, and reopened for many who may have forgotten what they once cherished.
I am especially pleased by the man chosen to be our first State Poet Laureate, Walter Bargen. I would like now to turn the podium over to Kevin Prufer, chair of the selection committee, to tell you something about Walter and the Poet Laureate Position.