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Great minds converge on NY Mills

They don't all agree, but that's just the point.

On June 11, the four chosen finalists will come together to debate the merits of poetry, or, more specifically, if poetry matters.

This year's Great American Think-Off debate, to be held June 11 in New York Mills, drew applications from around the nation. Showcasing some of the country's brightest minds, the debate's reputation has developed in areas that stretch far beyond rural Minnesota.

This year's finalists do, however, include some Minnesotans.

Doug Wilhide is a Minnesota man. With degrees in English from Miami University and the University of Iowa, he's carried out a career as a copywriter and creative advertising director. He's since launched his own publishing company, which has published books of poetry. He himself is a poet, as well, having been named Poet Laureate of Lindel Hills. He also works as the poetry editor for the southwest Journal. Wilhide believes poetry does matter.

Marsh Muirhead of Bemidji is somewhat of a renaissance man. He works as a dentist, flight instructor, writer and poet. His work has been published in a number of reviews. He's also contributed to traveling guides. He will argue that poetry does matter.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mahmood Tabadoor, of Michigan, and Bob Levin, of New York City, will argue that poetry does not matter.

Tabadoor is an engineer, with degrees from the University of Michigan and Virginia Tech. He has worked in the telecommunications and automotive industries, and now works in product safety. He considers himself an old-fashioned guy, having not crossed over into the digital world.

Levine splits his time between New York City and Connecticut. His heart is with entrepreneurship, as he's created a number of companies, including, an online company that enables people to pay fines electronically.

Betsy Roder of the cultural center said the event typically draws around 300 people - and she expects this year to draw the same type of crowd.

The event starts at 7 p.m. on June 11 in the James Mann Center in the New York Mills School. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Student tickets are $5.