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New Jersey


Lyric Poetry Mural, Lyric Poetry (detail), by Henry O. Walker, in the South Corridor, Jefferson Building, Library of Congress.
Photographic print.
[c.1899]

Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.
Library of Congress.

Position History:
The position no longer exists. It was created October 4, 1999, under P.L.1999, c.228. Gerald Stern was appointed first New Jersey poet laureate April 17, 2000, by Gov. Christie Whitman. New Jersey's second poet laureate, Amiri Baraka, came under intense criticism after reading his poem "Somebody Blew Up America" at the September 2002 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. The poem was said to include anti-Semitic sentiments in the wake of the World Trade Center bombings, particularly the lines:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?

Baraka refused New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey's call for him to resign. When McGreevey attempted to fire Baraka, he found no provision in the law for removing a state poet laureate. Subsequently, on October 17, 2002, a bill was introduced to the New Jersey Senate that would eliminate the position of state poet laureate; it passed and became effective July 2, 2003 (P.L.2003, c.123).

Previous Laureates:
Gerald Stern (April 17, 2000-2002)
Amiri Baraka (July 2002-July 2, 2003)

 

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  September 4, 2012
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