United States Poet Laureate

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The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate—serves as the nation's official poet. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The position was modeled on the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. Formerly known as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the present title was devised and authorized by an Act of Congress in 1985. The Poet Laureate's office is administered by the Center for the Book.

Overview[edit]

The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry is appointed annually by the Librarian of the United States Congress and serves from October to May. In making the appointment, the Librarian consults with former appointees, the current laureate and other distinguished personalities in the field.

Currently, the laureate receives a $35,000 annual stipend; it was originally funded by a gift from Archer M. Huntington. On October 3, 1985, the U.S. Congress passed legislation, authored by Senator Spark M. Matsunaga of Hawaii, to change the title of the position to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.[1] The Library keeps to a minimum the specific duties in order to afford incumbents maximum freedom to work on their own projects while at the Library. The laureate gives an annual lecture and reading of his or her poetry and usually introduces poets in the Library's poetry series, the oldest in the Washington area and among the oldest in the United States. This annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia, and occasional dramatic performances began in the 1940s. Collectively the Laureates have brought more than 2,000 poets and authors to the Library to read for the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature.

Each consultant has brought a different emphasis to the position. Maxine Kumin started a popular series of poetry workshops for women at the Library of Congress. Gwendolyn Brooks met with elementary school students to encourage them to write poetry. Joseph Brodsky initiated the idea of providing poetry in airports, supermarkets and hotel rooms. Rita Dove, considered the first activist poet laureate, brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists, championed children's poetry and jazz with poetry events and read at the White House during Bill Clinton's first state dinner. Robert Hass organized a "Watershed" conference that brought together noted novelists, poets and storytellers to talk about writing, nature and community, and co-founded the River of Words K–12 international children's poetry and art contest.[2] Robert Pinsky initiated the Favorite Poem Project. Billy Collins's "Poetry 180" project distributed a poem to all high schools for every day of the school year. These poems were also collected and published in two anthologies.

Lists of appointees[edit]

Consultants in Poetry[edit]

Each year links to its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article:

Poet Laureate Consultants in Poetry[edit]

Each year links to its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article:

Special Consultants in Poetry[edit]

19992000 (for Library of Congress' 200th Anniversary) Rita Dove, Louise Glück and W. S. Merwin

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress.

  1. ^ McGuire, William (1988). Poetry's Catbird Seat: The Consultantship in Poetry in the English language at the Library of Congress, 1937–1987 (Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.). ISBN 0-8444-0586-8.
  2. ^ "River of Words". Saint Mary's College. Retrieved September 13, 2012. 

External links[edit]