Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Politics

Legislator offers both rhyme and reason for Fla. poet bill

TALLAHASSEE — State Rep. Dan Raulerson is a numbers geek from Plant City, but the freshman legislator and accountant also sees himself as a bit of a Blake or a Yeats.

Using verse, Raulerson introduced a bill on Wednesday to establish a permanent poet laureate position for Florida.

"To be or not to be, that is the question for this bill," Raulerson told the House Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee. "Its very fortune and destiny is subject to your will."

The poet laureate position, an honorary post first established in 1928, has been vacant since August, when Edmund Skellings of West Melbourne died. He was Florida's third poet laureate. With no process to replace him, Raulerson's bill leaves the task in the hands of the Florida Council on Arts.

The bill will have the arts council nominate five poets to the secretary of state, who will submit three to the governor. The governor will then choose one to serve a four-year term.

"We have a state bird and a state everything else, so a poet laureate is a great position to have to promote the arts, poetry and writing and literature,'' Raulerson said after the meeting.

Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, who joined Raulerson in a tag-team poetic bill summary, introduced the measure as a bemused committee smirked in approval.

"Our poet laureate, alas, has passed,'' Fitzenhagen said. "A new one must be selected to fill the void at last."

"And now the new poet being the chosen one will promote poetry n' writing for love and for fun,'' Raulerson continued. "But before the word spreads throughout the lands, the decision is now in your capable hands."

The committee asked Raulerson if he engaged in poetry with his drinking buddies. Raulerson, a former mayor of Plant City, acknowledged that he had but reserved most of his talent for his wife.

"My appreciation of poetry is great, but my actual performance of poetry is limited — little love poems to my bride," he quipped later.

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