Friday, January 18, 2013

On John Darnielle as Poet Laureate

So, the owner of this blog has started a petition to name John Darnielle a Poet Laureate. If you’re reading this blog chances are you’re a fan and the distinction is obvious. Good for you for recognizing amazing talent. The thing is, the vast majority of Americans are ignorant of Darnielle. They are the people I want to speak to.

Darnielle is the singer and primary (read: only) songwriter for a band called the Mountain Goats. Even if it is just to a small portion of the population, he is important. His music has saved more than a few lives. Albums like The Sunset Tree speak to the damaged, to the alone and scared. That album is a song cycle about abuse. Over the course of thirteen tracks Darnielle confronts his demons, eventually overcoming them, and moving past them. The liner notes read:

“Dedicated to any young men and women anywhere who live with people who abuse them, with the following good news: you are going to make it out of there alive, you will live to tell your story, never lose hope".
There are numerous stories about people who were brought to the light because of this work of art. If Darnielle had stopped there it would be enough, but the man has released fourteen albums, along with countless other songs spread across various 7 inches, EPs, and compilations.
His latest, Transcendental Youth, focuses on people struggling with mental illness and other problems that make it difficult to interact with ordinary society. Everything he releases, every show he plays is a bit of light shining out of the darkness.
He provides hope, and proof that life can, and will get better. The young people of America need him. Naming Darnielle Poet Laureate will increase his influence, providing better opportunities for him to speak to those who need him. It will make this great nation an even better place to live.
By Jeffrey Whitelaw.  Mr. Whitelaw lives, works and attends school in Seattle, Washington. His new collection of poetry, Putting Cigarettes Out in My Sleep, is being released shortly by Gray Sky Micro Press.  other music writing can be found at  and He is currently thinking of six ways to prove to you that you're wrong, but can be contacted at Mr. Whitelaw can be reached and observed on Twitter here: @fever_

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