List of U.S. states' poets laureate

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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey was U.S. Poet Laureate (2012–2014) and 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 2017, 46 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. Michigan had a single poet laureate from 1952–1959. There has never been an official State Poet Laureate in Massachusetts. 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 Diane Raptosh.

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 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
21 December 1959 15 September 1974 (death) Gov. John Patterson [2]
4 William Young Elliott
August 1975 1982 Gov. George Wallace [2]
5 Carl Patrick Morton
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
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 7 February 2016 (death) Gov. Robert J. Bentley [2]


The current Alaska's State Writer Laureate is Frank Soos. 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
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 2014 [4]
16 Frank Soos 29 Jan 2015[6] Present [4]


The current poet laureate of Arizona is Alberto Rios.


# Poet Laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Charles T. Davis 1923 1945 [7]
2 Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni 1953 1970 [7]
3 Ercil Brown 1970 1971 Interim Appointee[7]
4 Lily Peter 1971 1991 [7]
5 Verna Lee Hinegardner 1991 2003 [7]
6 Peggy Vining 2003 2017 [7]
7 Jo Garot McDougall 2017 [8]

Charles T. Davis was the first until his death on December 21, 1945. The position was vacant from 1946 until 1953, when Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni was appointed. Upon Marinoni’s death in 1970, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller named Ercil Brown interim laureate. When legislature reconvened, three candidates had emerged: Anna Nash Yarborough, Lily Peter, and Brown. The legislature declined to decide and instead in 1971 passed Act 90, which assigned the responsibility to the governor. Governor Dale Bumpers announced Lily Peter’s appointment on October 6, 1971. Following Peter’s death, Verna Lee Hinegardner was appointed by Governor Bill Clinton on October 4, 1991, serving until 2003. In 2003, Governor Mike Huckabee appointed Peggy Vining. Before this time, the poet laureateship had been considered a life appointment and publicity ensued but in the end the appointment stood. Peggy Vining served as Poet Laureate from 2003 until her death in 2017. The Legislature changed the term for Arkansas Poet Laureate during 2017 to 4 years. The current Poet Laureate of Arkansas is Jo McDougall of Little Rock, Arkansas.


The current poet laureate is Dana Gioia, appointed in 2015.


Colorado Poets Laureate are appointed to four-year terms. They are nominated by Colorado Creative Industries and Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book, and chosen by the Governor.

# Poet laureate Term Appointed by
1 Alice Polk Hill 1919-1921 [9]
2 Nellie Burget Miller 1923-1952 [9]
3 Margaret Clyde Robinson 1952-1954 [9]
4 Milford E. Shields 1954-1975 [9]
5 Thomas Hornsby Ferril 1979-1988 [9]
6 Mary Crow 1996-2010 [9]
7 David Mason 2010-2014 [9]
8 Joseph Hutchison 2014-2019 [9]
9 Bobby LeFebre 2019- Jared Polis [9]


The Poet Laureate of Connecticut was established in 1985 by Public Act 85-221 of the Connecticut General Assembly.[10] Five-year residents of the state with a demonstrated career in poetry are eligible for the honorary appointment as an advocate for poetry and literary arts.[11]

The following have held the position:[10][12]


# Poet laureate Term Appointed by Notes
1 Edna Deemer Leach 1947–49 Bacon [13]
2 Jeannette Slocum Edwards 1950–53 Carvel [13]
3 Frances Shannon Flowers (McNeal) 1954 Boggs [13]
4 Katherine King Johnson 1955 Boggs [13]
5 David Hudson 1956–60 Boggs [13]
6 Alison Kimball Bradford 1961 Buckson [13]
7 Margaret Eleanor Weaver 1962 Carvel [13]
8 Mother Aloysius Peach 1963–64 Carvel [13]
9 Percival R. Roberts III 1965–66 Terry [13]
10 Joyce Carlson 1967–68 Terry [13]
11 Antonia Bissell Laird 1969–70 Peterson [13]
12 Harry Eisenberg 1971 Peterson [13]
13 David Hudson 1975–76 Tribbitt [13]
14 e. j. lanyon 1979–81 du Pont [13]
15 Fleda Brown 2001–07 Minner [13]
16 JoAnn Balingit 2008–2015 Minner [13]
17 Nnamdi Chukwuocha
Albert Mills
2015– Markell [14]

Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Albert Mills—twin brothers who are known as the "Twin Poets"—are the current Poets Laureates of Delaware. They were appointed on December 13, 2015.[14] According to the Library of Congress, they are the first co-laureates appointed by a state and the first siblings to share the position.[15]

District of Columbia[edit]

The nation's capital, the District of Columbia (created the position of Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia in 1984 during the mayoralty of Marion Barry.[16] The position is filled by appointment from the mayor of the district the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.[16] Only two poets laureate have been appointed since the creation of the position.

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Sterling Allen Brown
1984 1989 (death) Mayor Marion Barry [16][17]
2 Dolores Kendrick 14 May 1999 2017 (death) Anthony A. Williams [16][18]


Franklin L. Wood was appointed in 1927 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.[19] Peter Meinke currently holds this position and was appointed on June 15, 2015.[20]


The current poet laureate of Georgia is Chelsea Rathburn, appointed in 2019.[21]


The current poet laureate of Hawaii is Kealoha, appointed in 2012 by Governor Neil Abercrombie.[22]


# Poet laureate Term Appointed by Notes
1 Howard Austin 1936–1962 Henry Horner [23]
2 Carl Sandburg 1962–1967 Otto Kerner Jr. [24]
3 Gwendolyn Brooks 1968–2000 Otto Kerner Jr. [25][26]
4 Kevin Stein 2003–2017 Rod Blagojevich [27]
- John Prine 2020 J.B. Pritzker Honorary title given posthumously.[28][29]
5 Angela Jackson 2020–Present J.B. Pritzker [30]

The state's first three Poets Laureate were named at the initiative of individual governors. After the death of Brooks, the title was made into a four-year renewable award.[31]


Indiana has the unique situation of having two posts: an official "state poet laureate", created in 2005, that is occupied by Matthew Graham, and the unofficial post of "premier poet" created in 1929 occupied by Sarah E. Morin.[32][33]


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


The current poet laureate of Kansas is Huascar Medina, serving from 2019 to 2021.


From the creation of the poet laureate position in 1926 until 1990, the state legislature appointed poets to lifetime terms as poets laureate.[34] 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.[35] 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".[35] The position comes without salary, although the laureate "may be reimbursed for expenses".[35] 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".[34] The poet laureate is inducted on this date at the Writers' Day festivities every other year.[34]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 James Thomas "Cotton" Noe March 1926 9 November 1953 (death) legislature [34][36]
2 Edward G. Hill 1 October 1928 8 November 1937 (death) legislature [34][36]
3 Louise Scott Phillips 1945 1983 (death) legislature [34][36]
4 Edwin Carlisle Litsey 1954 3 February 1970 (death) legislature [34][36]
5 Jesse Hilton Stuart 1954 1984 (death) legislature [34][36]
6 Lowell Allen Williams 1956 legislature [34][36]
7 Lillie D. Chaffin 1974 legislature [34][36]
8 Tom Mobley 1976 legislature [34][36]
9 Agnes O'Rear 7 March 1978 1990 (death) legislature [34][36]
10 Clarence "Soc" Clay 1984 legislature [34][36]
11 Lee Pennington 1984 legislature [34][36]
12 Paul Salyers 1984 legislature [34][36]
13 Dale Faughn 1986 legislature [34][36]
14 Jim Wayne Miller 1986 legislature [34][36]
15 Henry E. Pilkenton 1986 legislature [34][36]
16 James H. Patton, Jr. 1990 legislature [34][36]
17 James Still 1995 1996 [34][36]
18 Joy Bale Boone 1997 1998 [34][36]
19 Richard Taylor 1999 2000 [34][36]
20 James Baker Hall 2001 2002 [34][36]
21 Joe Survant 2003 2004 [34][36]
22 Sena Jeter Naslund 2005 2006 [34][36]
23 Jane Gentry Vance 2007 2008 [34][36]
24 Gurney Norman 2009 2010 [34][36]
25 Maureen Morehead 2011 2012 [34][36]
26 Frank X Walker January 2013 2014 [34][36]


27 George Ella Lyon 2015 2016 [34][36]
28 Frederick Smock May 1, 2017 2018 [39]
29 Jeff Worley 2019 Matt Bevin [40]


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.


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


The current poet laureate of Maryland is Grace Cavalieri, appointed in 2018.


Massachusetts has never had an official poet laureate.[41][42]


Edgar A. Guest was the first and only Michigan Poet Laureate, a title he held from 1952 until his death in 1959.


# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Margarette Ball Dickson 1934 21 July 1963 Poet Laureates League (District of Columbia) [43]
2 Laurene Tibbetts-Larson 14 May 1974 6 December 1999 unofficial election [43]
3 Robert Bly 27 February 2008 22 August 2011 Gov. Tim Pawlenty [43]
4 Joyce Sutphen 23 August 2011 present Gov. Tim Pawlenty [43]


The current poet laureate of Mississippi is Beth Ann Fennelly.

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Maude Willard Leet Prenshaw 1963 1971 (death) Gov. Ross Barnett [44]
2 Louise Moss Montgomery 1973 January 1978 (death) Gov. William Waller [44]
3 Winifred Hamrick Farrar 31 July 1978 6 November 2010 (death) Gov. Cliff Finch [44]
4 Natasha Trethewey January 2012 2016 Gov. Haley Barbour [44]
5 Beth Ann Fennelly August 2016 present Gov. Phil Bryant [45]


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".[46] 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"[46] Missouri's poet laureate serves without compensation.[47]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Walter Bargen 2008 2010 Gov. Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon [48]
2 David Clewell 3 March 2010 31 January 2012 Gov. Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon [47]
3 William Trowbridge 13 April 2012 31 January 2014 Gov. Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon [49][50]


The current poets laureate of Montana are Melissa Kwasny and M.L. Smoker, appointed in August 2019.[51]


The current Nebraska State Poet is Matt Mason, serving 2019-2023. Twyla Hansen served from 2013-2018, following William Kloefkorn who was the first Nebraskan to be given the title "Nebraska State Poet," which he held from 1982-2011. John Neihardt, who was appointed Nebraska poet laureate in 1921, retains the title of Poet Laureate of Nebraska "in perpetuity".[52][53][54]


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 Alexandria Peary, appointed October 2019.[55]

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.[56] 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.[56] An incumbent poet laureate would be the fifth member of the panel that selected his successor.[56] The governor alone would appoint the poet laureate by presenting him or her with the New Jersey William Carlos Williams Citation of Merit.[56] 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".[56]

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"[57][58] 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 that the United States government knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. Critics accused Baraka of racism and anti-Semitism.[58] 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.[59]

# Poet laureate Term began Term ended Appointed by Notes
1 Gerald Stern
(b. 1925)
17 April 2000 July 2002 Gov. Christine Todd Whitman [60]
2 Amiri Baraka
28 August 2002 2 July 2003 (post abolished) Gov. James E. McGreevey [61][62][63]

New Mexico[edit]

New Mexico appointed its first poet laureate, Levi Romero in 2020.[64]

New York[edit]

The current New York State poet is Yusef Komunyakaa, appointed in 2014 to a two-year term ending in 2016.

The current poet laureate emeritus of New York State is Joseph Tusiani, appointed in 2014 to a two-year term ending in 2016.

North Carolina[edit]

The current poet laureate of North Carolina is Shelby Stephenson, appointed to a two-year term in December 2014[65]

North Dakota[edit]

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


In 2014, Ohio enacted law creating the position of Ohio poet laureate starting July 1, 2016. The Ohio Arts Council provides a list of candidates to the governor for selection to serve a two-year term, with the possibility of reappointment.[66][67] The current Ohio Poet Laureate is Kari Gunter-Seymour, appointed to a term beginning June 10, 2020.[68] Previous Ohio Poets Laureate are Amit Majmudar (2016-2017) and Dave Lucas (2018-2019).[67][69]


Jeanetta Calhoun Mish [70] is the 2017–2018 Poet Laureate of Oklahoma. Oklahoma has appointed poets laureate since 1923.


The current poet laureate of Oregon is Anis Mojgani, appointed in 2020 by Governor Kate Brown.[71]


Pennsylvania appointed one poet, Samuel John Hazo, in 1993. He held the position for ten years before it was eliminated.[72]

Rhode Island[edit]

The State Poet of Rhode Island, established in 1987, is codified in Chapter 42-100 of the State of Rhode Island General Laws.[73] The five-year appointment by the Governor carries an annual salary of $1,000.[74]

The following have held the position:[73]

South Carolina[edit]

The sixth poet laureate of South Carolina, generally a lifetime position, is Marjory Heath Wentworth was appointed in 2003 by Governor Mark Sanford pursuant to SC Code, Sec. 1-3-230[75] She resigned in 2020.[76]

South Dakota[edit]

The first poet laureate was appointed in 1937, and a permanent office of poet laureate of South Dakota was created by legislation in 1959. The Governor has the authority to appoint a candidate who has received a recommendation from the South Dakota State Poetry Society. The appointment was indefinite, "during the pleasure of the Governor", until 2015, when the term was set at four years. Past appointees have lifetime emeritus status.[77][78]

The following have held the position:


The 87th Tennessee General Assembly appointed Richard M. "Pek" Gunn as first poet laureate for life in it 1971–1972 session.[81] He died in 1995.[82] The current poet laureate of Tennessee is Margaret Britton Vaughn was appointed in 1999.[81]


The current poet laureate of Texas is Carol Coffee Reposa, appointed in 2018.


The Utah State Poet Laureate Program was established in 1997. As a joint project of the Governor's Office and the Utah Arts Council Literature Program, the Governor appoints the Utah Poet Laureate for a five-year term.[83][84]

Previous Laureates:


Robert Frost was the first poet named as Laureate by Joint House Resolution 54 of the Vermont General Assembly in 1961, less than two years before his death. The current position of State Poet, a four-year appointment, was created by Executive Order 69 in 1988. In 2007, the designation was changed to Poet Laureate.

The following have held the position:[85]


The current poet laureate of is Virginia is Luisa Igloria, appointed in 2020 to a two-year term.[86]


Although the Washington State Federation of Women's Clubs named Ella Higginson poet laureate in 1931, there was no official position until House Bill 1279 was signed into law in 2007.[87] The position was unfilled for two years due to a budget shortfall, and resumed without state funding.

The following have served:[88]

  • Samuel Green (2007–2009)
  • unfilled (2010–2011)
  • Kathleen Flenniken (2012–2014)
  • Elizabeth Austen (2014–2016)
  • Tod Marshall (2016–2018)
  • Claudia Castro Luna (2018– )

West Virginia[edit]

West Virginia established the position of Poet Laureate by statute in 1927. The appointment was defined by statue as "at the pleasure of the Governor", but has become an indefinitely renewable two-year term. The following have served:[89][90]

  • Karl Myers (1927–1937)
  • Roy Lee Harmon (March 12, 1937 – 1943)
  • James Lowell McPherson (1943–1946)
  • Roy Lee Harmon (October 11, 1946 – 1960)
  • Vera Andrews Harvey (1960–1961)
  • Roy Lee Harmon (March 7, 1961 – 1979)
  • Louse McNeil (Pease) (1979–1993)
  • Irene McKinney (1994–2012)
  • Marc Harshman (2012– )


The position and nominating commission was created by executive order from Governor Tommy Thompson on July 31, 2000. On February 4, 2011, Governor Scott Walker discontinued state sponsorship and sent a letter to the members of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission to inform them it has been terminated. The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters assumed the role of the commission May of that year.[91][92][93] The Poets laureate of Wisconsin are:


The position of Poet Laureate was created by executive order in 1981 with a variable term of service. The post became a customary two-year term starting on statehood day (July 10). The current poet laureate of Wyoming is Eugene M. Gagliano appointed in 2016 and reappointed in 2018.[94][95]

The past poets laureate are:

  • Peggy Simson Curry (January 14, 1981 – January 20, 1987)
  • Charles L. Levendosky (January 4, 1988 – 1995)
  • Robert Roripaugh (July 21, 1995 – 2003)
  • David Romtvedt (August 15, 2004 – January 3, 2011)
  • Patricia Frolander (November 7, 2011 – June 9, 2013)
  • Echo Roy Klaproth (July 10, 2013 – July 8, 2015)
  • A. Rose Hill (July 9, 2015 – July 10, 2016)


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