MtvU, a branch of MTV that broadcasts on 750 U.S. college campuses, announced this week that it has chosen its first poet laureate, The New York Times reports. And while names such as Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen spring to mind as poets already in the music world, mtvU chose John Ashbery, a celebrated 80-year-old poet who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror and continues to publish prolifically.
Excerpts of Ashbery’s poems will be shown in 18 promotional spots on the channel and its website (which will also have the full text of the poems).
Mr. Ashbery, who was the poet laureate of New York State from 2001 to 2003, was immediately receptive. “It seemed like it would be a chance to broaden the audience for poetry,” he said.
The poems used in the campaign span his career, and the spots are simple: on a white background, black text floats in to a sound like a crashing wave, appears on the screen for a minute, then floats away. From “Retro” (2005): “It’s really quite a thrill/When the moon rises over the hill/and you’ve gotten over someone/salty and mercurial, the only person you’ve ever loved.” From “Soonest Mended” (2000): “Barely tolerated, living on the margin/In our technological society, we are always having to be rescued.”
The station is also sponsoring a poetry contest for students. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa will select a winner, who will have a book published next year by HarperCollins as part of its national poetry series.
“We hope that we’ll help discover the next great poet that we’ll be talking about for years to come,” said Stephen K. Friedman, the general manager of mtvU….
Quillblog suggests keeping quiet about the fact that there is significantly less bling involved in being a poetry star than a rock star.