Hank Lazer addressed the question this way when asked in an interview (that's Hank in the photo at left--and on the cake):
"First, I don’t think that there is a fixed “role of the writer” – certainly not a version of what a writer should be. A writer’s range of possible roles will, to a significant extent, be determined by cultural, historical, and local conditions.
"Personally, and in my own circumstances – living in Alabama, in the US, etc. – I think that as a poet I have an opportunity and an ethical imperative to explore and to advocate for non-utilitarian engagements with language. Poets have an opportunity to critique prevailing cultural assumptions and habits, including those of the various overlapping and separate poetry communities. Poetry, as an activity in a capitalist and consumer society, has the capacity to be a rare form of non-alienated labor. The poet’s role thus becomes an example of choosing work/play/labor that, for the most part, is done for its own sake. In the larger culture, the presence of such persons is a challenge and a provocation, as well as a reminder."