Yusef Komunyakaa (official
title: State Poet)
Start of Term:
February 11, 2016
Position created by special mandate August 1, 1985, of the New York State Legislature
(Statutes, Sec. 8.11). The text of the law follows:
§ 8.11. New York state Walt Whitman citation of merit for
The governor shall biennially present the New York state Walt Whitman
citation of merit to a distinguished New York poet upon the
recommendation of the panel constituted in this section. The poet
selected shall be considered the state poet and the citation shall carry
an honorarium of ten thousand dollars.
2. The institute shall biennially appoint and convene an advisory
panel of distinguished poets and persons with particular expertise in
the field of poetry. The director of the institute shall be a permanent
member of the advisory panel and each current state poet shall serve as
a member of the panel in choosing the next New York state Walt Whitman
poet. The panel shall recommend to the governor a poet whose
achievements make him or her deserving of such recognition.
3. The state poet shall promote and encourage poetry within the state
and shall give two public readings within the state each year.
4. The institute shall establish such procedures and guidelines as are
necessary to effect the provisions of this section.
The laureate is awarded with the New York state Walt Whitman citation of merit for poets. Term length is two years. Additional information on the history of the position can be found through the New York State Writers Institute.
On January 8, 2016, Governor Cuomo appointed Joseph Tusiani Poet Emeritus of the State of New York in recognition of his contributions to international literature. This position is a one-time award and distinct from the positions of New York State Poet and New York State Author.
Stanley Kunitz (1987-1989)
Robert Creeley (1989-1991)
Audre Lorde (1991-1993)
Richard Howard (1993-1995)
Jane Cooper (1995-1997)
Sharon Olds (1998-2000)
John Ashbery (2001-2003)
Billy Collins (2004-2006)
Jean Valentine (2008-2010)
Marie Howe (2012-2014)
by Yusef Komunyakaa in the Library's online