List of U.S. states' Poets Laureate

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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey is the current U.S. Poet Laureate (since 2012) and the Poet Laureate of Mississippi (2012–2016).

Many of the states in the United States have established the post of poet laureate to which a prominent poet residing in the respective state is appointed. The responsibilities of the state poets laureate are similar to those of the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and the equivalent Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in the United States, to make public appearances at poetry readings or literary events, and to promote awareness of poetry within their geographical region.

As of 2013, 44 states and the District of Columbia have poets laureate, although a few are presently vacant. The terms can vary in length from state to state. Most states appoint a poet laureate for a one- or two-year term, fewer to several years, and some states appoint a poet to a lifetime tenure. Two states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, previously had such posts but abolished them in 2003. There has never been an official State Poet Laureate in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, or Ohio. While Idaho does not have a post of "poet laureate", per se, the state appoints a "Writer in Residence", which can be held by a novelist or poet. The current occupant of the Idahoan post is novelist and short-story writer Brady Udall.

List of state poets laureate[edit]

The following lists of state poets laureate below are divided by state. The name of the current poet laureate is in bold.

Alabama[edit]

Alabama has had an official poet laureate since 1930. The Alabama Writer's Conclave, described as "a voluntary organization of Alabama historians, playwrights, fiction writers, poets, and newspaper writers" first recommended Samuel Minturn Peck to Governor Bibb Graves. The state legislature approved a bill to create the office on March 5, 1931.[1][2] After the death of Dr. Peck, the position was not filled and was revived in 1954 due to the efforts Mary B. Ward, the president of the Alabama Writer's Conclave, who became the state's second laureate.[2]

At present, a poet selected must have been Alabama residents for at least 15 years prior to the appointment, and when commissioned by the governor, is appointed to serve one four-year term.[2] Before 1983, neither the organization or the state statute provided for a specific term length.[2] The Alabama Writers' Conclave will recommend candidate who is elected by the organization's membership at its annual meeting.[2] The governor subsequently commissions the candidate.[2] A candidate for poet laureate need not be a member of the Alabama Writers' Conclave to be nominated or selected.[2]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Samuel Minturn Peck
(died 1938)
12 June 1930 3 May 1938 (death) Gov. Bibb Graves [2]
2 Mary B. Ward 21 November 1954 1958 Gov. Gordon Persons [2]
3 Elbert Calvin Henderson
(1903–1974)
21 December 1959 15 September 1974 (death) Gov. John Patterson [2]
4 William Young Elliott
(born 1902)
August 1975 1982 Gov. George Wallace [2]
5 Carl Patrick Morton
(1920–1994)
1983 1987 Lt. Gov. William Baxley [2]
6 Morton Dennison Prouty, Jr.
(died 1992)
1988 1991 Gov. H. Guy Hunt [2]
7 Ralph Hammond 1992 1995 Gov. H. Guy Hunt [2]
8 Helen Friedman Blackshear
(1911–2003)
1 January 1995 1999 Gov. Jim Folsom, Jr. [2]
9 Helen Norris 1999 2003 Gov. Don Siegelman [2]
10 Sue Walker August 2003 December 2012 Gov. Bob Riley [2]
11 Andrew Glaze 2013 2017 Gov. Robert J. Bentley [2]

Alaska[edit]

The current Alaska's State Writer Laureate is Nora Marks Dauenhauer. Originally created as the position of Poet Laureate in 1963 (House Resolution 25). The official name was changed in 1996 to recognize and honor all genres of writing. The position is selected by the Alaska State Council on the Arts.[3]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Margaret Mielke
(1912–1980)
1963 1965 - [4]
2 Oliver Everette 1965 1967 - [4]
3 John Haines 1969 - - [4]
4 Ruben Gaines 1973 - - [4]
5 Sheila Nickerson 1977 - - [4]
6 Richard Dauenhauer 1981 - - [4]
7 Joanne Townsend 1988 1994 - [4][5]
8 Tom Sexton 1995 - - [4]
9 Richard Nelson 2000 2002 - [4]
10 Anne Hanley 2002 2004 - [4]
11 Jerah Chadwick 2004 September 2006 - [4]
12 John Straley October 2006 September 2008 - [4]
13 Nancy Lord 1 October 2008 September 2010 - [4]
14 Peggy Shumaker 1 October 2010 September 2012 - [4]
15 Nora Marks Dauenhauer 10 October 2012 present - [4]

Arizona[edit]

The current poet laureate of Arizona is Alberto Rios.

Arkansas[edit]

The current poet laureate of Arkansas is Peggy Vining who was appointed in 2003

California[edit]

The current poet laureate is Juan Felipe Herrera, appointed in 2012 for a two year term.

Colorado[edit]

The current poet laureate of Colorado is David Mason, appointed in 2010 by Governor Ritter[6]

Connecticut[edit]

The current poet laureate of Connecticut is Dick Allen, appointed in 2010 and serving until 2015.[7]

Marilyn Nelson (born 1946) was poet laureate of the State of Connecticut from 2001-2006.

Delaware[edit]

The current poet laureate of Delaware is JoAnn Balingit, appointed in 2008.

District of Columbia[edit]

The nation's capital, the District of Columbia (better known as Washington, DC, created the position of Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia in 1984 during the mayoralty of Marion Barry.[8] The position is filled by appointment from the mayor of the district the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.[8] Only two poet laureates have been appointed since the creation of the position.

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Sterling A. Brown
(1901–1989)
1984 1989 (death) Mayor Marion Barry [8]
2 Dolores Kendrick 14 May 1999 present Anthony A. Williams [8]


Florida[edit]

Franklin L. Wood was appointed in 1929 and died soon afterwards. Vivian Laramore Rader was appointed in 1931 and served until her death in 1975. Edmund Skellings was appointed in 1980. A stroke that impaired his speech and limited his ability to do all of his official duties. He died August 19, 2012, leaving the post vacant.[9]

Georgia[edit]

The current poet laureate of Georgia is Judson Mitcham, appointed in 2012,

Hawaii[edit]

The current poet laureate of Hawaii is Kealoha, appointed in 2012 by Governor Neil Abercrombie.[10]

Illinois[edit]

The current poet laureate of Illinois is Kevin Stein, appointed in 2003.

Indiana[edit]

Indiana has the unique situation of having two posts: an official "state poet laureate", created in 2005, that is occupied by George Kalamaras, and the unofficial post of "premier poet" created in 1929 occupied by Cecil Tresslar.

Iowa[edit]

The current poet laureate of Iowa is Mary Swander, appointed in 2009

Kansas[edit]

The current poet laureate of Kansas is Wyatt Townley, serving from 2013 to 2015.

Kentucky[edit]

From the creation of the poet laureate position in 1926 until 1990, the state legislature appointed poets to lifetime terms as poets laureate.[11] Several poets held the position at the same time. Since 1990, Kentucky state law provides for the appointment of a poet laureate or writer laureate to one two-year term selected by the governor.[12] The statute, Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 153.600 provides for two duties: (1) "Make a presentation on Kentucky Writers' Day" and (2) "Act as a writing consultant to the State Department of Education and Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives."[12] The position comes without salary, although the laureate "may be reimbursed for expenses."[12] According to the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky poet laureate is charged with "promoting the literary arts and leading the state in literary activities, including Kentucky Writers’ Day"—a holiday held on 24 April "to commemorate the birthday of Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren, the first poet laureate of the United States."[11] The poet laureate is inducted on this date at the Writers' Day festivities every other year.[11]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 James Thomas "Cotton" Noe March 1926 9 November 1953 (death) legislature [11][13]
2 Edward G. Hill 1 October 1928 8 November 1937 (death) legislature [11][13]
3 Louise Scott Phillips 1945 1983 (death) legislature [11][13]
4 Edwin Carlisle Litsey 1954 3 February 1970 (death) legislature [11][13]
5 Jesse Hilton Stuart 1954 1984 (death) legislature [11][13]
6 Lowell Allen Williams 1956 - legislature [11][13]
7 Lillie D. Chaffin 1974 - legislature [11][13]
8 Tom Mobley 1976 - legislature [11][13]
9 Agnes O'Rear 7 March 1978 1990 (death) legislature [11][13]
10 Clarence "Soc" Clay 1984 - legislature [11][13]
11 Lee Pennington 1984 - legislature [11][13]
12 Paul Salyers 1984 - legislature [11][13]
13 Dale Faughn 1986 - legislature [11][13]
14 Jim Wayne Miller 1986 - legislature [11][13]
15 Henry E. Pilkenton 1986 - legislature [11][13]
16 James H. Patton, Jr. 1990 - legislature [11][13]
17 James Still 1995 1996 - [11][13]
18 Joy Bale Boone 1997 1998 - [11][13]
19 Richard Taylor 1999 2000 - [11][13]
20 James Baker Hall 2001 2002 - [11][13]
21 Joe Survant 2003 2004 - [11][13]
22 Sena Jeter Naslund 2005 2006 - [11][13]
23 Jane Gentry Vance 2007 2008 - [11][13]
24 Gurney Norman 2009 2010 - [11][13]
25 Maureen Morehead 2011 2012 - [11][13]
26 Frank X. Walker January 2013 2014 - [11][13]

[14][15]

Louisiana[edit]

The current poet laureate of Louisiana is Ava Leavell Haymon, appointed for the 2013 - 2015 two-year term. Julie Kane served as poet laureate from 2011 - 2013 for a two-year term.

Maine[edit]

The current poet laureate of Maine is Wesley McNair, appointed in 2011 to a five-year term ending in 2016.

Maryland[edit]

The current poet laureate of Maryland is Stanley Plumly, appointed in 2004.

Minnesota[edit]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Margarette Ball Dickson 1934 21 July 1963 Poet Laureates League (Washington, DC) [16]
2 Laurene Tibbetts-Larson 14 May 1974 6 December 1999 unofficial election [16]
3 Robert Bly 27 February 2008 22 August 2011 Gov. Tim Pawlenty [16]
4 Joyce Sutphen 23 August 2011 present Gov. Tim Pawlenty [16]

Mississippi[edit]

The current poet laureate of Mississippi is Natasha Trethewey, appointed in 2012 to a four-year term ending in 2016.

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Maude Willard Leet Prenshaw 1963 1971 (death) Gov. Ross Barnett [17]
2 Louise Moss Montgomery 1973 January 1978 (death) Gov. William Waller [17]
3 Winifred Hamrick Farrar 31 July 1978 6 November 2010 (death) Gov. Cliff Finch [17]
4 Natasha Trethewey January 2012 present Gov. Haley Barbour [17]

Missouri[edit]

Missouri's poet laureate was established by an executive order from the governor. The order outlined a post with a two-year term, to be filled by "a published poet, a resident of Missouri, be active in the poetry community, and be willing and able to promote poetry in the state of Missouri".[18] The order requires that the appointee "promote the arts in Missouri by making public appearances at public libraries and schools across the state" and "compose an original poem in honor of Missouri"[18] Missouri's poet laureate serves without compensation.[19]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Walter Bargen 2008 2010 Gov. Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon [20]
2 David Clewell 3 March 2010 31 January 2012 Gov. Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon [19]
3 William Trowbridge 13 April 2012 31 January 2014 Gov. Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon [21][22]

Montana[edit]

The current poet laureate of Montana is Sheryl Noethe appointed in 2011.

Nebraska[edit]

The current poet laureate of Nebraska is Twyla Hansen[23][24]

Nevada[edit]

This post is currently vacant. Mildred Breedlove (1904–1994) was named poet laureate in 1957, but disputed with officials over a commissioned work. Norman Kaye, a songwriter, was appointed in the 1960s although he had (and has) not published any poetry. He was named "laureate emeritus" in 2007 but no replacement was announced.

New Hampshire[edit]

The current poet laureate of New Hampshire is Walter E. Butts, appointed in 2009.

New Jersey[edit]

Gerald Stern, shown here in 2011, was New Jersey's first poet laureate.

New Jersey no longer has a poet laureate position. It existed for less than four years and was abolished by the legislature effective 2 July 2003.

The state legislature created in 1999 the post as part of a biennial award called the New Jersey William Carlos Williams Citation of Merit.[25] The 1999 act, codified as N.J.S.A. 52:16A-26.9, provided for a panel of four poets from New Jersey selected by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts the New Jersey Council for the Humanities would convene to select candidates for the position for the consideration of the state's governor.[25] An incumbent poet laureate would be the fifth member of the panel that selected his successor.[25] The governor alone would appoint the poet laureate by presenting him or her with the New Jersey William Carlos Williams Citation of Merit.[25] The poet laureate, serving for a two-year term, was expected to "engage in activities to promote and encourage poetry within the State" and "give no fewer than two public readings within the State each year."[25]

The state legislature and governor abolished the post after the second poet laureate, Amiri Baraka incited a public controversy soon after his appointment with a public reading of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America"[26][27] The poem was controversial and met with harsh criticism by literary critics, politicians, and the public. The poem was highly critical of racism in America, includes angry depictions of public figures, claimed Israel was involved in the World Trade Center attacks, and supported the theory the that the United States government knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. Critics accused Baraka of racism and anti-Semitism.[27] Baraka refused to resign, and because the statute did not allow the governor to remove him from the post, the state legislature and governor enacted legislation to abolish the position on 2 July 2003.[28]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Gerald Stern
(b. 1925)
17 April 2000 July 2002 Gov. Christine Todd Whitman [29]
2 Amiri Baraka
(1934–2014)
28 August 2002 2 July 2003 (post abolished) Gov. James E. McGreevey [30][31][32]

New Mexico[edit]

New Mexico does not have a poet laureate position,[33] although as of 2013 a movement is underway to create such a position.[34] Several New Mexico cities, such as Albuquerque,[35] have appointed a laureate.

New York[edit]

The current poet laureate of New York is Marie Howe, appointed in 2012 to a two-year term ending in 2014.

North Carolina[edit]

The current poet laureate of North Carolina is Valerie Macon, appointed to a two-year term in 2014 [36]

North Dakota[edit]

The current poet laureate of North Dakota is Larry Woiwode, appointed in 1995.

Oklahoma[edit]

The current poet laureate of Oklahoma is Nathan Brown (poet), appointed to a one-year term in 2013.

Oregon[edit]

Main article: Oregon Poet Laureate

The current poet laureate of Oregon is Peter Sears, appointed in 2014

Pennsylvania[edit]

Pennsylvania appointed one poet, Samuel John Hazo, in 1993. He held the position for ten years before it was eliminated.[37]

Rhode Island[edit]

The current poet laureate of Rhode Island is Rick Benjamin, appointed in 2013 to a four-year term ending in 2017.

South Carolina[edit]

The current poet laureate of South Carolina, generally a lifetime position, is Marjory Heath Wentworth appointed in 2003 by Governor Mark Sanford pursuant to SC Code, Sec. 1-3-230[38]

South Dakota[edit]

The current poet laureate of South Dakota is David Allan Evans, appointed in 2002.

Tennessee[edit]

The current poet laureate of Tennessee is Margaret Britton Vaughn, appointed in 1999.

Texas[edit]

The current poet laureate of Texas is Rosemary Catacalos, appointed in 2013.

Utah[edit]

The current poet laureate of Utah is Lance Larsen, appointed in 2012.

Vermont[edit]

The current poet laureate of Vermont is Sydney Lea, appointed in 2011.

Virginia[edit]

The current poet laureate of is Virginia is Sofia Starnes, appointed in 2012 to a two-year term.

Washington[edit]

The current poet laureate of Washington is Kathleen Flenniken, appointed in 2012 to a two-year term.[39] || -

West Virginia[edit]

The current poet laureate of West Virginia is Marc Harshman, appointed in 2012.[40]

Wisconsin[edit]

The current poet laureate of Wisconsin is Max Garland appointed in 2013.

Wyoming[edit]

The current poet laureate of Wyoming is Patricia Frolander appointed in 2011.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Act No. 92", Acts of Alabama (1931).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Alabama Department of Archives and History. "Official Symbols and Emblems of Alabama: Poets Laureate of Alabama. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  3. ^ Monday Muse:Alaska's State Writer Laureate
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Library of Congress. U.S. State Poets Laureate: Alaska. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  5. ^ Deb:Have you spotted these writers
  6. ^ Press release of Gov. Ritter
  7. ^ [1]; CCT Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism; retrieved on December 27, 2010
  8. ^ a b c d DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. "History of the Office of the Poet Laureate". Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  9. ^ Florida Needs a Poet Laureate, But With Term Limits This Time by Olivia B. Waxman October 24, 2013 Time
  10. ^ [2]; Governor Abercrombie Proclaims Kealoha ‘Hawai'i Poet Laureate’
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Kentucky Arts Council. "Kentucky Poet Laureate History". Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  12. ^ a b c Commonwealth of Kentucky. 153.600 Appointment of Kentucky state poet laureate or writer laureate., Kentucky Revised Statutes. (1990 Ky. Acts ch.65, sec.1, effective July 13, 1990). Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Library of Congress. U.S. State Poets Laureate: Kentucky. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Frank X Walker new Ky. poet laureate" Lexington Herald-Leader, 14 February 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  15. ^ Kramer, Elizabeth. "Frank X Walker named Kentucky's first African-American poet laureate", The Courier-Journal, 14 February 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d Library of Congress. U.S. State Poets Laureate: Minnesota. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  17. ^ a b c d Library of Congress. U.S. State Poets Laureate: Mississippi. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  18. ^ a b Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. "Executive Order 09-28", 24 December 2009. According to Order 09-28, it supersedes Executive Order 08-01.
  19. ^ a b Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. "Gov. Nixon appoints David Clewell Poet Laureate of Missouri" (press release), 3 March 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  20. ^ Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. "Gov. Nixon establishes procedure for selecting new poet laureate, encourages Missourians to submit nominations" (press release), 24 December 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  21. ^ Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. "Gov. Nixon appoints William Trowbridge as Missouri's new Poet Laureate" (press release), 13 April 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  22. ^ Henderson, Jane, "William Trowbridge is new Missouri poet laureate", 13 April 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  23. ^ "Lincoln's Twyla Hansen named Nebraska state poet". Omaha World Herald. 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2013-12-10. 
  24. ^ William Kloefkorn, who died in 2011, had the title of Nebraska State Poet. Arguably the late John Neihardt is the Poet Laureate of Nebraska, a title that was permanently bestowed upon him in 1921. Lange-Kubick, Cindy (2011-05-19). "Nebraska loses state poet Bill Kloefkorn". Lincoln Journal-Star. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  25. ^ a b c d e State of New Jersey. P.L. 1999, c. 228 "An Act establishing the New Jersey William Carlos Williams Citation of Merit, supplementing Title 52 of the Revised Statutes and making an appropriation" (1999). Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  26. ^ Baraka, Amiri (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones). Somebody Blew up America and Other Poems. (Philipsburg, St. Martin, DWI: House of Nehesi), 2003.
  27. ^ a b Pearce, Jeremy. "When Poetry Seems to Matter", The New York Times, 9 February 2003. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  28. ^ New Jersey State Legislature. "An Act concerning the State poet laureate and repealing P.L.1999, c.228." from Laws of the State of New Jersey (P.L.2003, c.123). Approved 2 July 2003. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  29. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Fellows: Gerald Stern, 1980 - US & Canada Competition Creative Arts - Poetry. Biography. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  30. ^ Mansnerus, Laura. "McGreevey Could Fire Poet Under Proposed Legislation", The New York Times, 8 October 2002. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  31. ^ Purdy, Matthew. "New Jersey Laureate Refuses to Resign Over Poem", The New York Times, 28 September 2002. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  32. ^ Sullivan, Al. "McGreevey hails Baraka as a great artist", Hudson Reporter, 10 January 2014. Note: The original article stated "I’ve always had great personal affected (sic) for him"—rendered here under the assumption that "affected" was a typographical error and the intended word was "affection". Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  33. ^ [3]
  34. ^ [4]
  35. ^ [5]
  36. ^ McCrory, Pat (11 July 2014). "Governor McCrory Appoints State Poet Laureate". Office of the Governor of North Carolina. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  37. ^ [6]
  38. ^ State of South Carolina. "Section 1-3-230. Appointment of poet laureate", Title 1 - Administration of the Government, Chapter 3, Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Article 1, General Provisions Affecting Governor, South Carolina Code of Laws, Unannotated, Current through the end of the 2012 Session. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  39. ^ Kathleen Flenniken Named Washington State Poet Laureate for 2012-14. Retrieved on March 2, 2012
  40. ^ [7]. Retrieved on October 22, 2013

External links[edit]