Poetry Gets Political

Governor Scott Walker is creating a whirlwind of controversy across the board: education, state parks, law enforcement, and now, poetry. On Monday, February 21, Verse Wisconsin posted the following report on their Facebook page:

“Gov. Walker eliminated the Poet Laureate Commission as a government entity by failing to issue an order to renew it. Originally established by Gov. Tommy Thompson, the commission was renewed annually under Gov. Doyle. This elimination saves the state all of $2,000 annually […].”

Jane Hamblen, the co-chair of the Poet Laureate Commission, commented on the abrupt nature of the decision.

“I’ve been meeting with various constituents and committees, talking about finding the best…home, for the commission,” she said. “It’s upsetting that the governor chose not to continue it, and we had no notice.”

Though frustrated, Hamblen is optimistic the commission will have a “seamless transition.”

“For the current Poet Laureate [Bruce Dethlefsen] it doesn’t mean anything. He will continue. We have funds from grants and fundraising,” she said. “By the time Bruce’s full term is up, the commission will start the selection process [for the next Poet Laureate].”

Past Wisconsin Poet Laureates include Marilyn L. Taylor and Ellen Kort, who have each acted as judges for the annual Peninsula Pulse Hal Grutzmacher Poetry Contest.

The duties of the Poet Laureate include attending literary events, touring the state to read poetry, teach classes, and essentially, promote poetry.

“I think anything that encourages creativity is a good thing,” said Hamblen.

For more information and/or to read poetry inspired by Gov. Walker and the protests in Madison, visit or visit their Facebook page.

For more information about the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, visit