Wink is lone ‘yes’ vote for Poet Laureate nominee
Legislator says he doesn’t agree with all nominee’s writings, but believes Maxwell Corydon Wheat qualifies for the job
Six members of the Legislature’s Government Services Committee yesterday voted down a proposal to name award-winning poet Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr., the official Nassau County Poet Laureate, citing the nominee’s anti-war writings as offensive to troops serving overseas. The lone “yes” vote came from newly-elected legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) who said, while he didn’t necessarily agree with all of the nominee’s views, he still believed that Mr. Wheat was more than qualified for the honorary position.
Mr. Wheat, 80, was nominated by a six-member advisory panel of experts, which unanimously selected him after reviewing 14 other candidates. Mr. Wheat is also a former U. S. Marine. However, the controversy over his nomination stemmed from a 2004 published book of poems, titled, “Iraq and Other Killing Fields: Poetry for peace.”
Several members of the committee said the book of poems made them “uncomfortable” with his nomination and that some of the poems “…condemned the troops fighting for America…”
However, Legislator Wink disagreed and said that, “Some of Mr. Wheat’s poems were sympathetic to the troops and simply lamented war itself; the vast majority of his body of work celebrates the natural beauty of Long Island. I believe that the panel who recommended Mr. Wheat did so based upon his 40 years of writing, mentoring, and advocating for the art of poetry here in Nassau County. His body of work shows that he is dedicated to his craft and brings an enthusiasm for poetry that is contagious. I do not believe that my limited understanding of the richness of poetry should override the considered wisdom of the panel recommending him. That is why I felt compelled to support his nomination.”
Wink pointed out that Wheat met all the requirements of the poet laureate, who is charged with “promoting and encouraging poetry within the county and giving two public readings a year.”
The panel’s call for nominations earlier in the year stated that nominees must submit samples of poetry and understand that the poet laureate is charged with promoting poetry throughout the county and giving two readings with in the county per year. The candidates were required to provide samples of poetry, and, if selected, to conduct an interview including his/her activities in the poetry community, how he/she expects to fulfill the role of poet laureate, and to give an approximately 15-minute reading of his/her poems.
Most importantly the NCPL Panel is seeking those poets who are dedicated advocates of the role of poetry in the educational and cultural life in Nassau.
“Mr. Wheat certainly meets all these qualifications,” Wink said. “Nowhere in the legislation does it state that the candidate has to agree with the political views of the members of the legislature. I still support his nomination and believe that the residents of this county would be admirably served by his appointment. He is obviously very passionate about his craft.”