Frequently Asked Questions
- How does one acquire the title of state poet laureate?
- What are the duties of a state poet laureate?
- What are the qualifications to become a state poet laureate?
- How many states currently have a poet laureate?
- Who was the first state poet laureate, and for which state?
- Do state poets laureate ever congregate?
- Where can I find out more about state poets laureate?
- Where can I find out about the poet laureate of the United States?
- Who is the poet laureate of Great Britain?
- Does Canada have a poet laureate?
1. How does one acquire the title of
state poet laureate?
State poets laureate can acquire their title unofficially or officially. Unofficially,
a laureate may be so named through a literary club ceremony, widespread popularity
or publicity, or through nicknaming. This allows many poets to claim laureate
status, however. Official designation of state poet laureate is by governor's
act or proclamation, by legislative action, or by both governor and legislature.
2. What are the duties of a state
The duties of a poet laureate vary from state to state, and are determined by
the appointing body or existing legislation. Usually the duties are broadly outlined,
and involve the central mission of promoting the reading, writing, and appreciation
of poetry among the general public. While occasional poetry readings and other
events may be required, laureates otherwise tend to be able to fulfill their
mission as they see fit. Leading poetry workshops, organizing and participating
in reading series, visiting local schools, and attending conferences are some
of the ways laureates typically fulfill their duties.
3. What are the qualifications to
become a state poet laureate?
Qualifications to become a state poet laureate vary from state to state. Generally,
nomination for and appointment to the position is based upon a poet's written
body of work, whose subject matter is often specific to the state and whose quality
is demonstrated through honors, awards, and other forms of recognition. A second
major qualification usually is the ability of the poet to promote poetry within
the state. Additionally, eligibility almost always requires the poet be a current
resident of the state.
4. How many states currently have
a poet laureate?
Forty-three states have an official
position of state poet laureate. Two states, Alaska and Idaho,
have a position for "State Writer Laureate" and "Writer-in-Residence," respectively.
The position of state poet
laureate or state writer is occupied in forty-two of these forty-five states.
While Indiana has
an official state poet laureate (position created 2005), it also has a well-established
position maintained by the Indiana State Federation of
states with no poet laureate or state writer position are
New Jersey, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.
5. Who was the
first state poet laureate, and for which state?
The first state poet laureate was Ina Coolbrith, who was named poet laureate
of California by governor's proclamation on April
21, 1915. The California legislature approved this proclamation on April 26,
1919. Chronologically, the second person to be named a state poet laureate
was Alice Polk Hill, who became Colorado's laureate
on September 10, 1919.
6. Do state poets laureate ever congregate?
Yes. Beginning in 2003, there have been several gatherings of state poets laureate. Major national gatherings include:
- April 25-26, 2003 - "Poetry and Politics: Nations of the Mind" (Manchester, New Hampshire)
- May 24-26, 2005 - "Discover the Spirit," National Writers Congress Conference (North Dakota)
- June 22-28, 2007 - "Sporting Words" (Indianapolis, Indiana)
- April 19-23, 2009 - "Poetry for Hope" (Rhode Island)
- March 14-15, 2010 - "Midwest Poets Laureate Convergence" (Lawrence, Kansas)
- March 13-14, 2011 - "Poet Laureati" (Lawrence, Kansas)
- October 11, 2015 - "In the Company of Laureates" (Manassas, Virginia)
In addition, on September 25, 2011, four state poets laureate and the poet laureate of Washington, D.C., read in the State Poets Laureate pavilion at the National Book Festival.
7. Where can I find out
more about state poets laureate?
Additional information about state poets laureate often can be found through state
arts councils, state
libraries, and the National Federation
of State Poetry Societies.
can I find out about the poet laureate of the United States?
Information about the national poets laureate can be found
through the Poetry & Literature
Center of the Library of Congress, as well as the United States Poets Laureate Web guide.
9. Who is the poet
laureate of Great Britain?
The current British poet laureate is Carol Ann Duffy, who was appointed to a ten-year
term on May 1, 2009. Previous British poets laureate are:
- John Dryden (1668-1688)
- Thomas Shadwell (1689-1692)
- Nahum Tate (1692-1715)
- Nicholas Rowe (1715-1718)
- Laurence Eusden (1718-1730)
- Colley Cibber (1730-1757)
- William Whitehead (1757-1785)
- Thomas Warton (1785-1790)
- Henry James Pye (1790-1813)
- Robert Southey (1813-1843)
- William Wordsworth (1843-1850)
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1850-1892)
- Alfred Austin (1896-1913)
- Robert Bridges (1913-1930)
- John Masefield (1930-1967)
- Cecil Day-Lewis (1968-1972)
- Sir John Betjeman (1972-1984)
- Ted Hughes (1984-1998)
- Andrew Motion (1999-2009)
10. Does Canada have a poet laureate?
Yes, Canada created the position of Parliamentary
Poet Laureate in December 2001. Its current poet laureate is George Elliott Clarke. Previous Parliamentary
Poets Laureate were Michel Pleau (2014-2016), Fred Wah (2011-2013), Pierre DesRuisseaux (2009-2011), John Steffler (2006-2008), Pauline
Michel (2004-2006), and George