Mississippi Entertainer's Poem Could Be State Poem

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

In the 1970s, Mississippi lawmakers recognized entertainer Paul Ott as a goodwill ambassador for the state.

Now, legislators are considering whether to make one of Ott's poems an official state symbol.

"I Am Mississippi" is a freeform verse that evokes homey images of gospel and blues, antebellum homes and rusty plows, coon hounds and bird dogs. A bill to designate it as the state poem has passed the House and awaits consideration in the Senate Rules Committee.

Ott copyrighted the work in 1990, and often recites it as part of his repertoire for radio and stage shows. He performed it on national television last fall as part of the "Mississippi Rising" telethon to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ott said the positive response he got after the Katrina telethon gave him the thought that "I Am Mississippi" could help another project he's interested in.

Ott said he's giving the copyright for the poem to the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center in Meridian, and he hopes the center's promoters can use it to raise money.

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