Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders’ incomprehension.
-H.W. Fowler, Modern English Usage
Or, in other words:
No vote for Nassau poet laureate candidate
BY SID CASSESE AND REID J. EPSTEIN
June 4, 2007, 10:36 PM EDTA
Nassau legislative comittee Monday voted down a proposal to name the county's first poet laureate, saying some of the nominee's writings were offensive to service members fighting overseas.
Before the 6-1 vote against the nomination of Maxwell Corydon Wheat Jr., Minority Leader Peter Schmitt said the Freeport poet's writings "condemn the troops fighting for America in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that's absolutely tragic."
"... I don't care what his politics are, but you don't condemn the men and women who answer this nation's call and put on the uniform," Schmitt said.
Only Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) voted for Wheat.
"I would be hard-pressed to imagine anyone in their right mind putting themselves through this again to be the poet laureate of Nassau County," Wink said. It was unclear Monday whether another nominee for the unpaid position will be put forward.
Wheat, 80, an award-winning member of the Long Island poetry community for about 40 years, was selected by a six-person committee. The poet laureate would serve for two years and would be charged with promoting and encouraging poetry within the county and with giving two public readings each year.
Wheat, whose work as a freelance writer has appeared in Newsday, is best known for his writing about nature.
The controversy surrounding his possible appointment stemmed primarily from his 2004 book of poems, "Iraq and Other Killing Fields: Poetry for Peace."
Defending his nomination before the committee, Wheat, who said he served in the Marines, read from the book:
"At dusk of evening/at checkpoint in southern Baghdad/American soldiers remember suicide bombers/killing four soldiers at another checkpoint./They aim at vehicles approaching on Highway1,/running up slipway toward overpass."
"The 22-year-old Corporal from Chicago,/Gunner aboard tank bearing barrel legend 'Bush & Co,'/ fires cannon shells/sees two men in silver gray Toyota Camry die/ 'in an explosion of blood and steel.'"
Later in the committee meeting, Wheat said: "Don't let concerns for the meaning of the poems stop you from enjoying the poems."
But Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove), who chaired the seven-member Government Services Committee, said that "Once I saw that he had picked an elected official -- the president -- to write about, it made me uncomfortable."
George Wallace, Suffolk County's first poet laureate, who served in 2003 and 2004, said that, "for a political body to have a position of poet laureate, they must consider what their purposes are -- whether it's to have somebody who agrees with their politics or to have a person in the poetry scene and willing to promote it."
"... And you'll have to ask that person, can they put their politics or religion or social point of view aside to play the public role," Wallace said.
Wheat said he was saddened by the vote. "I was looking forward to it very much. I wanted to make Nassau County accessible to poetry enthusiasts."
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.