Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cleveland's Poet Laureate

Really, erudite?

If I’m so erudite, why did I need a dictionary to know that was a compliment?

Grisham? Patterson? Mark the date. At 2 p.m. on April 15, Executive Editor Tricia Ambrose decided it was time to pander to the masses.

If you want something newer and popular, may I suggest “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. If you don’t like that, I offer “Handle with Care” by Jodi Picoult.

But one of these days we’re reading “Welcome to the Monkey House.”

Just so we actually talk about something book-related, I have a question for you.

Who is Cleveland’s poet laureate?

While reading “Dubliners,” I wondered, “Who could capture the facets of our city as James Joyce did with his?”

Toni Morrison is from Lorain, and she’s talented enough to be anywhere’s laureate. But, while “The Bluest Eye” and “Sula” were based in Ohio, she has never written anything that struck me as a Cleveland story.

To me, the person who best qualifies as Cleveland’s writer is Harvey Pekar.

Sure, he writes comic books and not Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. Maybe he’s as likely to win the Nobel Peace Prize as be named poet laureate. But the man understands the city.

He got booted from David Letterman’s guest list for insulting General Electric. He worked as a clerk at a veteran’s hospital, after he became famous. He once said, “It makes you feel good to know that there’s other people afflicted like you.”

I say this with all due affection. This man’s the epitome of a Clevelander. In fact, I suggest we adopt the city motto “afflicted like you.”

-Jason Lea,

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You needn't write a "cleveland story" to be considered cleveland's poet laureate. Just be the best poet to ever come from the area.

My vote goes to Hart Crane, who despite only living his formative years in Northeast Ohio, gave us remarkable — and erudite — verse in his short span.

April 16, 2009 at 6:57 PM 

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