Vancouver’s Poet Laureate has refused to take part in the Olympics because he feels his poem will be construed as “negative or derogatory” – an interpretation based on his understanding of a clause in a Vancouver Olympic Committee contract:
“The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement genrally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC.”
What I object to is the Poet Laureate’s willingness to accept the VANOC clause as a standard of artistic merit. Why not fight the reduction of one’s work to terms like “negative or derogatory” (or “positive and complimentary”) by challenging the categories in which the law wants that work assigned? Moreover, why not address such an imposition in a poem, as opposed to a prefatory essay?
The Poet Laureate has promised to reveal his poem on Friday.