What do you get when you mix a Wesleyan alum, a renowned octogenarian poet and some MTV? This:
MtvU, the subsidiary of MTV Networks that is broadcast only on college campuses, will announce today that it has selected its first poet laureate. No, he doesn’t rap. And it’s not Bob Dylan, or even Justin Timberlake.
It is John Ashbery, the prolific 80-year-old poet and frequent award winner known for his dense, postmodern style and playful language. One of the most celebrated living poets, Mr. Ashbery has won MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim fellowships and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.”
Excerpts of his poems will appear in 18 short promotional spots — like commercials for verse — on the channel and its Web site (mtvu.com, which will also feature the full text of the poems). In another first, mtvU will help sponsor a poetry contest for college students. The winner, chosen by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, will have a book published next year by HarperCollins as part of the 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, which broadcasts at 750 campuses nationwide.
The idea of the laureate program was not to create more English majors, but simply to whet an appetite, said Mr. Friedman, a poetry aficionado since he majored in literature, philosophy and history at Wesleyan. Mr. Ashbery, he added, was the No. 1 choice to inaugurate the position. “He resonates with college students that we’ve talked with,” he said.