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Frequently Asked Questions


1. How does one acquire the title of state poet laureate?
2. What are the duties of a state poet laureate?
3. What are the qualifications to become a state poet laureate?
4. How many states currently have a poet laureate?
5. Who was the first state poet laureate, and for which state?
6. Do state poets laureate ever congregate?
7. Where can I find out more about state poets laureate?
8. Where can I find out about the poet laureate of the United States?
9. Who is the poet laureate of Great Britain?
10. 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 poet laureate?
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-two 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-one of these forty-four states.

While Indiana has an official state poet laureate (position created 2005), it also has a well-established unofficial position maintained by the Indiana State Federation of Poetry Clubs.

The six states with no poet laureate or state writer position are Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, 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:

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.

8. Where 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 Fred Wah. Previous Parliamentary Poets Laureate were Pierre DesRuisseaux (2009-2011), John Steffler (2006-2008), Pauline Michel (2004-2006), and George Bowering (2002-2004).

 

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  December 4, 2014
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