Poetry News

No Racy Poets Allowed on Norfolk, VA's School Board

By Harriet Staff

It’s not often that a poet decides to go into politics, but it’s apparently a good way to get everyone to discuss your early work. HuffPo reports that when a Norfolk, Virginia man tried to get on the Norfolk Public School Board, a poem he wrote about the city in 2008 raised eyebrows. Jesse Scaccia, who admits the explicit, racially-charged content in the poem put local politicians in a tight spot, was not appointed to the school board.

On Tuesday, the Virginian-Pilot reported that Norfolk's vice mayor, Anthony L. Burfoot, planned to ask Scaccia about "Norfolk: The Poem," which was written in 2008, while Scaccia was in a graduate nonfiction writing program at Old Dominion University, during his interview for the school board position.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Scaccia brought up the poem on his own later that day:

Jesse Scaccia said Tuesday in his City Council interview for School Board that a satirical poem he wrote could be used as a "teachable moment" for any Norfolk student who stumbles across it online.

"Let's talk about race. Let's talk about sexuality," Scaccia said. "Let's talk about sense of place and bias and how that affects our prejudices and the way we see the world."

…Wednesday, Scaccia told The Huffington Post he's happy the poem…did get people talking. The Virginian-Pilot's story about "Norfolk: The Poem" "was the most read story in our region's top newspaper [on Tuesday]," he said.

Scaccia seems to be taking the controversy fairly well:

Looking back at recent events, Scaccia told HuffPost of his regrets.

"I just wish it was a better poem," he said. "It was just a first draft."

More fun poetry politics here.

Originally Published: June 25th, 2012