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May 31, 2007 | 3 Comments

Dear Garrison:
My sister-in-law, Lisa Silverberg Starr, has recently been appointed Poet Laureate of Rhode Island. I am in a quandary as to how to properly address her now.

Do you think Lisa, Her Poet Laureateness, is correct? I tried to "google" an answer but to no avail. Then I thought, there is one person who knows the answers to life's toughest questions: Garrison Keillor!

Hope to see you next year at the 5th Annual Block Island Poetry Project.

Rosie B.
Chepachet, RI

Billy Collins, a former two-time Poet Laureate of the United States, was on the show last weekend and with Billy I just say "Serene Highness" and that's all that's necessary. Of course I do not look him directly in the eye unless he looks me in the eye. And there is some bowing involved. I don't know if all of this pertains to Rhode Island, a state that is more like a county. Maybe you should simply address her as O Starr and then hum.

Block Island? Is that around here? And why a "project"? Why not a festival?


Hey Garrison. Lisa Starr here, County Poet of Rhode Island. I prefer to think of myself as the un-laureate. Or the bull in the poet laureates china shop. But I sure do have fun, and I am the only laureate willing and eager to do a triathlon in Indiana at the end of the month at the Nsational gathering of state, international and US Poets laureate (past and present).. It is a Project and not a festival becasue it is a work in progress that has its roots, like me in poetry. I wrote to you about 6 months back and explained my work to you ( This year had Robert and Coleman among others. Next year Coleman will bring Mary Oliver with him. This life like no other. Gordon Bok and Carol Rohl told me years ago I needed to mee you. When's the last time Prairie Home Companion took a walk on the beach?

Block Island? Is that around here? And why a "project"? Why not a festival?

Dear Garrison,
I cut my poetry teeth in Rhode Island and beg a difference on several points besides size:
Little Rhody can best be considered as a World of its own. It is not a country or state – let alone, county. My wife is a Rhode Islander and I have spent many years there probing its byways, secret and otherwise. Some people say evil things are hidden beneath the streets of Providence. I will not contradict them. Rhode Island is not a world for the squeamish. Let’s just say I always felt welcomed, and protected, and never lost my taste for fish.
But a Block Island Poetry Festival? This is a difficult concept even for one as intrepid as I. I know there is an Art Festival, or was. Seascapes are not literature and I cannot think of any place on Block Island where poets might be poets, and be festive, without running to weathers against the Island constabulary. Poets will be getting thrown to irons in jail for sure. Taxes cannot supply enough funds for municipal amenities to Block Island communities. The local authorities seem to love surcharging the tourist who has had too much to drink. A poet, even a festive one, is just another form of tourist. There are fines for misbehavior. And will impecunious poets be thrown in irons for lighting cooking fires, or sleeping on the beach?
How to get there? The island can be reached by small boat. Unfortunately, I am put to mind of what happened to Shelley. Seasonal channel traffic can be festive enough, without adding a lot of very festive poets in small boats. There are ferries to the Island from many points along the coast. In fact, perhaps one still, from Long Island. I hope the weather behaves itself. Besides ferries costing money to ride, a festive poet fresh off a pitching boat in brisk weather might not have a proper use for a podium.
As I hinted above, the more diligent might seek out the secret passages of the old ones and simply walk to Block Island. I wonder however, after a hike of twenty miles or so in slimy night, beneath the torpid waters of the channel, breathing the remnant eldritch vapors of Cthulhu, will the poetry that finally finds the light of day be fit for human consumption? Garrison, from personal experience, I think the founders of this literary event have chosen well to name it “Project.”
Signed, Yr Obednt Servnt and Cousin, LHH

How can you tell if he's looking you in the eye if you don't look him in the eye?

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