Library of Congress

Poetry and Literature

The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature > Current Poet Laureate > Past Poets Laureate: 2011-present
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W.S. Merwin

2010-2011

W.S. Merwin

Merwin (1927- ) was born in New York City and educated at Princeton University. He has traveled extensively in France, Portugal, and England. He is the author of more than 20 books of poetry. A Mask for Janus, his first book in 1952, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. His book Migration: Selected Poems 1951-2001 won the National Book Award for poetry in 2005. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1971 for his book The Carrier of Ladders, and in 2009 for The Shadow of Sirius. Merwin has also published more than 20 books of translation, numerous plays, and six books of prose.
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Philip Levine

2011-2012

Philip Levine

Levine (1928-2015) was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received his BA from Wayne State University and, after a succession of industrial jobs, he left Detroit and lived in various parts of the country before settling in Fresno, California, where he taught at the state university until his retirement. Post-retirement, Levine served as poet-in-residence at New York University for over a decade. He received many awards for his books of poems, including the National Book Award in 1991 for What Work Is and the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for The Simple Truth. He split his time between Fresno and Brooklyn in his later years, before his death in early 2015.
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Natasha Trethewey

2012-2014

Natasha Trethewey

Trethewey (1966- ) was born in Gulfport, Mississippi. She received a BA from the University of Georgia, an MA from Hollins College (now Hollins University), and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts. She is the author of four poetry collections, including Domestic Work (2000), selected by former Poet Laureate Rita Dove as winner of the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem Poetry Prize; Native Guard (2006), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; and Thrall (2012). She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012, Trethewey was appointed the State Poet Laureate of Mississippi. She is currently the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, where she also directs the Creative Writing Program.
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Charles Wright

2014-2015

Charles Wright

Charles Wright (1935- ) was born in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee. He is the author of 24 poetry collections, two books of essays, and three books of translation. His many honors include the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the International Griffin Poetry Prize, as well as the 2008 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize in Poetry from the Library of Congress. Wright attended Davidson College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He also served in the U.S. Army. While stationed in Italy, he discovered Ezra Pound and began writing poems. His most recent collection of poems is Caribou (2014).
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2015-2017

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera (1948- ) was born in Fowler, California. He is the author of 30 books of poetry, novels for young adults, and collections for children. His many honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International Latino Book Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, and the PEN Beyond Margins Award. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Stanford University Chicano Fellows. Elected a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets in 2011, Herrera served as the Poet Laureate of California from 2012-2015. He received a BA from UCLA, an MA from Stanford University, and an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Herrera’s most recent book is Notes on the Assemblage (2015).
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2017-2019

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith (1972- ) was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and raised in Fairfield, California. She earned a BA in English and American literature and Afro-American studies from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. Smith is the author of four books of poetry, including Wade in the Water (2018); Life on Mars (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Duende (2007), winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award and the 2008 Essence Literary Award; and The Body’s Question (2003), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith is also the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities, and Director of the Creative Writing Program, at Princeton University.
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