...Poets do bring a lot to their communities, though, and not just in the high-minded ways Audre Lorde imagines. The workshops and readings essentially amount to adult education; many of the events are very popular with adults who, like the actors in Mandel’s novel, hunger for some cultural stimulation.
...Town poet laureates also perform a solemn civic duty when they are called upon to compose an “occasional” or “custom poem” to commemorate an event that is significant to the community. By giving a name to the thoughts that come to all of us, the poems give us all a common voice and a language that we can share. Without such a common voice a community becomes nothing more than a group of people bound by geography.