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State Poet Overstated His Case

October 19, 2002|Robin Fields | Times Staff Writer

Quincy T. Troupe, California's first formally selected poet laureate, resigned Friday after acknowledging he had taken a bit of poetic license on his professional resume.

Troupe, 62, who teaches at UC San Diego and is widely known for his dramatic readings, attended Grambling University, but did not -- as his curriculum vitae said -- earn a degree there.

Troupe's resignation was a blush-inducer for Gov. Gray Davis, who picked him from among three formidable finalists in June. Though Troupe was sworn in, the laureate position requires state Senate confirmation. Staffers for the Senate Rules Committee turned up the discrepancy, the governor's office said.

"I deeply regret my ill-advised decision to include inaccurate information on my curriculum vitae," Troupe said in a statement. "It was never my intent to disappoint any of all the wonderful people who have been enormously supportive of me and who have expressed such pride in my appointment."

Troupe's abrupt exit dealt another blow to those who have long worked to give the poet-laureate post literary legitimacy.

Though California has had a poet laureate since 1915, their selection had been informal and politically driven until legislation passed last year formalized the post and the rules for choosing who fills it.

Even after the California Arts Council got the go-ahead to anoint a "real" state poet, the agency had trouble drumming up interest in the position.

Just 10 nominations trickled in before the original deadline was extended.

A jolt of late publicity boosted the applicant pool to more than 50. Last March, a five-member panel of poetry experts narrowed the field to three: Troupe; Diane di Prima, a Beat Generation standout; and Francisco Alarcon, one of the nation's most prominent Chicano poets.

It remains unclear who will replace Troupe.

Several cases of resume inflation have roiled the worlds of academia and sports in the past year. The most high-profile example was probably George O'Leary, who was named head coach at Notre Dame, then resigned weeks later after portions of his academic and athletic bio proved false. Despite this latest resume flap, no one has questioned Troupe's literary chops. He has published 13 books, including six volumes of poetry, and collaborated with jazz great Miles Davis on his best-selling autobiography. He has received two American Book Awards, a Peabody Award and twice won the heavyweight title at the Taos Poetry Circus.

"He's enormously popular with his students," said Steve Maviglio, the governor's spokesman. "It's really sad."

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