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U.S. State Poets Laureate: A Resource Guide


Select a state below to learn more about the history of its poet laureateship, including the names of any current and former state poets laureate.

Current Alabama Laureate: Ashley M. Jones

Start of Term: December 1, 2021

Position History: According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History website:

Act No. 92 of the 1931 Alabama Legislature created the honorary office of Poet Laureate of Alabama. The poet laureate is designated by the Alabama Writers' Conclave, a voluntary organization of Alabama historians, playwrights, fiction writers, poets, and newspaper writers. The Writers' Conclave designates a suitable candidate and upon the election of a nominee by a majority of the membership at any annual meeting, the name is certified to the governor. The governor then issues a commission to the poet laureate.

The term of office of the poet laureate was initially indeterminate. The term was changed to 4 years by a constitutional amendment to the constitution of the Alabama Writers' Conclave that became effective in 1983. This amendment also limits the the poet laureate to one 4-year term and requires that a poet laureate nominee have resided in Alabama for at least 15 years. Membership in the Alabama Writers' Conclave is not a requirement for nomination as poet laureate.

Previous Laureates:

  • Samuel Minturn Peck (June 12, 1930-1938)
  • Mary B. Ward (1954-1958)
  • Elbert Calvin Henderson (1959-1974)
  • William Young Elliott (1975-1982)
  • Carl Patrick Morton (1983-1987)
  • Morton Dennison Prouty, Jr. (1988-1991)
  • Ralph Hammond (1992-1995)
  • Helen Friedman Blackshear (1995-1999)
  • Helen Norris (1999-2003)
  • Sue Walker (August 2003-December 2012)
  • Andrew Glaze (January 2013-February 7, 2016)
  • Jennifer Horne (November 1, 2017-2021)

Further Resources

Current Alaska Laureate: Heather Lende (official title: State Writer Laureate)

Start of Term: May 12, 2021

Position History: According to an archived page External on the Alaska State Council on the Arts website:

The Juneau Poetry Society created the Poet Laureate Program in the early 1960s. In 1963, under House Resolution 25, the position of Poet Laureate was officially confirmed by the Legislature. In 1987 AKSCA's Literary Advisory Committee began to oversee the selection process with the assistance of past poet laureates. In 1996, the Council acted to broaden the position to that of State Writer, recognizing and honoring all genres of writing. The State Writer position is a two-year appointment.

The Alaska Humanities Forum website External provides the following information:

The Alaska State Writer Laureate Program is a partnership between the Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA) and the Alaska Humanities Forum. The Writer Laureate designation recognizes the contributions of an Alaska writer and includes funds to support a unique project of the Laureate’s design during their two-year term.

The Alaska State Writer Laureate is a two-year honorary appointment recognizing the selected writer’s contribution to the quality of life in Alaska through their written work and other literary endeavors. The role of the Laureate is to promote the literary arts and artists of Alaska. In fulfilling this purpose, each Laureate determines, in consultation with ASCA and the Forum, a project to complete over the course of their appointment.

Nominations are solicited by the ASCA and the Alaska Humanities Forum on a biennial basis. The Alaska State Writer Laureate is selected by the Literary Arts Advisory Committee and approved by both ASCA’s and AKHF’s boards. The Alaska State Writer Laureate is recognized through a proclamation by the Legislature.

Previous Laureates:

  • Margaret Mielke (1963-1965)
  • Oliver Everette (1965-1967)
  • John Haines (appointed 1969)
  • Ruben Gaines (appointed 1973)
  • Sheila Nickerson (appointed 1977)
  • Richard Dauenhauer (appointed 1981)
  • Joanne Townsend (appointed 1988)
  • Tom Sexton (appointed 1995)
  • Richard Nelson (appointed 2000)
  • Anne Hanley (2002-2004)
  • Jerah Chadwick (October 2004-September 2006)
  • John Straley (October 2006-September 2008)
  • Nancy Lord (October 1, 2008-September 2010)
  • Peggy Shumaker (October 1, 2010-September 2012)
  • Nora Marks Dauenhauer (October 10, 2012-October 2014)
  • Frank Soos (December 2014-2016)
  • Ernestine Hayes (2016-2018)

Further Resources:

Current Arizona Laureate: Alberto Ríos

Start of Term: January 20, 2014

Position History: SB1348, which established the position of Arizona State Poet Laureate, was signed into law by Governor Brewer on May 11, 2012. State poets laureate serve a two-year term, beginning and ending on the third Monday in January of the corresponding year. The state poet can serve no more than three terms. Arizona's first poet laureate, Alberto Ríos, was appointed by Governor Brewer on August 19, 2013.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts website provides the following details about the position:

Arizona is home to a wealth of distinguished and diverse literary artists who, through their work and service, represent Arizona’s values, storied history and boundless potential.

The Arizona Poet Laureate is a Governor’s appointee whose purpose is to champion the art of American poetry, inspire an emerging generation of literary artists and educate Arizonans about poets and authors who have influenced our state through creative literary expression.

In 2012, Arizona’s Centennial Year, State Senator Al Melvin sponsored Senate Bill 1348 to establish a Poet Laureate position for the State of Arizona. Senate Bill 1348 received broad bipartisan support in both State Legislative chambers and was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in May 2012.

Previous Laureates:

  • Margaret Mielke (1963-1965)
  • Oliver Everette (1965-1967)
  • John Haines (appointed 1969)
  • Ruben Gaines (appointed 1973)
  • Sheila Nickerson (appointed 1977)
  • Richard Dauenhauer (appointed 1981)
  • Joanne Townsend (appointed 1988)
  • Tom Sexton (appointed 1995)
  • Richard Nelson (appointed 2000)
  • Anne Hanley (2002-2004)
  • Jerah Chadwick (October 2004-September 2006)
  • John Straley (October 2006-September 2008)
  • Nancy Lord (October 1, 2008-September 2010)
  • Peggy Shumaker (October 1, 2010-September 2012)
  • Nora Marks Dauenhauer (October 10, 2012-October 2014)
  • Frank Soos (December 2014-2016)
  • Ernestine Hayes (2016-2018)

Further Resources:

Current Arkansas Laureate: Jo Garot McDougall

Start of Term: April 27, 2018

Position History: Position established October 10, 1923, with the passing of concurrent resolutions by both houses of the Arkansas legislature. House Concurrent Resolution Number 17 (March 28, 1953) installed Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni as state poet laureate. Upon Marioni's death, Ercil Brown served as interim Laureate until Lily Peter's appointment on October 6, 1971. Peter was the first person designated poet laureate under Act 90 (passed February 15, 1971), which authorized the governor to appoint the poet laureate. The official position of Poet Laureate is codified in Sec. 1-4-114 of the Arkansas Code, the full text of which follows:

1-4-114. Poet laureate. (a) The Governor is authorized to designate or appoint, by proclamation, a Poet Laureate of the State of Arkansas, which shall be an honorary title in recognition of outstanding accomplishments and contributions in poetry by a person who is a resident of the State of Arkansas. (b) The person designated or appointed by the Governor as Poet Laureate of the State of Arkansas shall be a person whose name was selected from a list of names submitted to the Governor upon recommendation of a committee consisting of the principal heads of the English departments of all state-supported universities and colleges.

History. Acts 1971, No. 90, § 1; A.S.A. 1947, § 5-111.1

Previous Laureates:

  • Charles T. Davis (October 10, 1923-December 21, 1945)
  • Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni (March 28, 1953-March 1970)
  • Ercil Brown (interim appointee, March 1970-1971)
  • Lily Peter (1971-1991)
  • Verna Lee Hinegardner (1991-2003)
  • Peggy Vining (2003-Nov. 26, 2017)

Further Resources:

Current California Laureate: Lee Herrick

Start of Term: November 18, 2022

Position History: The unofficial position of poet laureate was established with the appointment of Ina Donna Coolbrith on June 30, 1915. The official position of Poet Laureate of California was created by Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) under Assembly Bill 113, and was signed in 2001 by Governor Gray Davis. While the unofficial position carried a lifetime appointment, current laureates are appointed a two-year term, with the possibility of serving a second two-year term. After Quincy Troupe resigned from the position in 2002 for falsifying information on his resume External, the position remained vacant until the appointment of Al Young by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on May 12, 2005.

Previous Laureates:

  • Ina Donna Coolbrith (1915-1928)
  • Henry Meade Bland (1929-1931)
  • John Steven McGroarty (1933-1944) Gordon W. Norris (1953-1961)
  • Charles B. Garrigus (1966-2000)
  • Quincy Troupe (2002)
  • Al Young (May 12, 2005-2008)
  • Carol Muske-Dukes (November 13, 2008-2011)
  • Juan Felipe Herrera (March 26, 2012-2014)
  • Dana Gioia (December 4, 2015-2018)

Further Resources:

Current Colorado Laureate: Bobby LeFebre

Start of Term: July 23, 2019

Position History: Position established 1919. First laureate was Alice Polk Hill. The Colorado Humanities website notes External that "the Poet Laureate serves a four-year term and is chosen by the Governor through a program administered by Colorado Creative Industries and Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book." As part of the program, nominees for the position are reviewed by a selection committee and finalists are presented to the Colorado governor, who chooses the Poet Laureate.

Previous Laureates:

  • Alice Polk Hill (1919-1921)
  • Nellie Burget Miller (1923-1952)
  • Margaret Clyde Robinson (1952-1954)
  • Milford E. Shields (1954-1975)
  • Thomas Hornsby Ferril (1979-1988)
  • Mary Crow (1996-2010)
  • David Mason (July 1, 2010-September 7, 2014)
  • Joseph Hutchison (September 9, 2014-July 22, 2019)

Further Resources:

Current Connecticut Laureate: Margaret Gibson

Start of Term: April 3, 2019

Position History: Position established in 1985 by the Connecticut General Assembly (P.A. 85-221); codified in Sec. 3-110f of the Connecticut General Statutes. The poet laureate is appointed by Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development(a successor agency to Commission on Culture and Tourism, which previously selected the laureate).

Previous Laureates:

  • James Merill (1985-1995)
  • Leo Connellan (1996-2001)
  • Marilyn Nelson (2001-2007)
  • John Hollander (March 7, 2007-October 2009)
  • Dick Allen (July 1, 2010-June 30, 2015)
  • Rennie McQuilkin (July 1, 2015-June 2018)

Further Resources:

Current Delaware Laureates: Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Albert Mills (known as the Twin Poets)

Start of Term: December 16, 2015

Position History: Position established April 28, 1947 (Laws, Vol. 46, Chap. 347; Code, Title 29, Sec. 4401). The Delaware Department of State website provides a brief history of the position. After E. Jean Lanyon's term expired in 1981, no new laureate was named and she served as unofficial poet laureate until Fleda Brown's appointment in 2001. The position is now open-ended; a new bill passed June 28, 2000, replaced "a 2 year term Poet Laureate who is to be appointed January 1 of odd numbered years (with Department of State office space mandated) with an appointment at the pleasure of the Governor."

Current laureates Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Al Mills, known as the Twin Poets, share the title of 17th Poets Laureate of Delaware. The state's previous poet laureate, JoAnn Balingit, stepped down on December 1, 2015.

Previous Laureates:

  • Edna Deemer Leach (1947-1949)
  • Jeannette Slocum Edwards (1950-1953)
  • Frances Shannon Flowers (McNeal) (1954)
  • Katherine King Johnson (1955)
  • David Hudson (1956-1960)
  • Alison Kimball Bradford (1961)
  • Margaret Eleanor Weaver (1962)
  • Mother Aloysius Peach (1963-1964)
  • Dr. Percival R. Roberts, III (1965-1966)
  • Joyce Carlson (1967-1968)
  • Antonia Bissell Laird (1969-1970)
  • Dr. Harry O. Eisenberg (1971)
  • David Hudson (1975-1976)
  • E. Jean Lanyon (1979-1981)
  • Dr. Fleda Brown (October 26, 2001-2007)
  • Dr, JoAnn Balingit (May 14, 2008-December 1, 2015)

Further Resources:

Current Washington, D.C., Laureate: Vacant

Position History: Sterling Brown was appointed the first poet laureate of the District of Columbia by Mayor Marion Barry in May 1984. After Brown's death in 1989, the position became defunct until poet E. Ethelbert Miller submitted a proposal to restore the position to the city. Mr. Miller also recommended Dolores Kendrick for the position to the District of Columbia Commission on Arts and Humanities. She was approved and subsequently appointed by Mayor Anthony Williams on May 14, 1999. Kendrick served as laureate until her death in November 2017. Sandra Beasley's February 5, 2021, opinion piece in The Washington Post External notes that attempts to appoint a new D.C. poet laureate have faltered.

Previous Laureates:

  • Sterling Brown (May 1984-January 13, 1989)
  • Dolores Kendrick (May 14, 1999-November 7, 2017)

Current Florida Laureate: Peter Meinke

Start of Term: June 15, 2015

Position History: Position established 1928 by governor's proclamation. First laureate was Franklin N. Wood. The post had been a lifetime appointment through the tenure of Edmund Skellings, who passed away August 19, 2012. Florida lawmakers passed HB 513 on June 20, 2014, establishing a four-year term for Florida’s state poet laureate and designating all former Florida poets laureate “State Poet Laureate Emerita” (Florida Statute 265.2863 External). The poet laureate is appointed by the governor from a list of nominees selected by the Florida Council on Arts and Culture External and culled by the Secretary of State. Peter Meinke is the first Florida poet laureate to serve under the 2014 statute.

Previous Laureates:

  • Franklin N. Wood (appointed 1929)
  • Vivian Laramore Rader (1931-1975)
  • Edmund Skellings (1980-August 19, 2012)

Further Resources:

Current Georgia Laureate: Chelsea Rathburn

Start of Term: March 21, 2019

Position History: Position established January 18, 1925, by governor's proclamation, codified in Georgia State Code, Sec. 50-1-3 External. The text of the law follows below:

a. There is created the position of poet laureate of the State of Georgia.

b. The poet laureate shall be appointed by the Governor from a list of three nominees submitted to him by the Georgia Council for the Arts.

c. The council shall submit the list of three nominees to the Governor within 30 days after the Governor takes the oath of office for a full term. The Governor shall appoint the poet laureate within 30 days after receiving the list of nominees. The poet laureate shall be appointed to serve for a term of office concurrent with the term of office of the Governor or until a successor is appointed and qualified as provided in this Code section.

d. In the event of a vacancy in the office of poet laureate, the vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment, and the person so appointed shall serve until a successor is appointed and qualified as provided in this Code section.

e. Any person serving on April 13, 1981, in the position of poet laureate as created by executive order shall continue in the position and no appointment shall be effective under this Code section until such time as the person serving as poet laureate on April 13, 1981, either vacates the office or a vacancy occurs in the office in any other manner.

f. The poet laureate shall be an honorary position and the person appointed shall receive no remuneration.

Previous Laureates:

  • Frank L. Stanton (Jan. 18, 1925-Jan. 7, 1927)
  • Ernest Neal (Aug. 20, 1927-Jan. 23, 1943)
  • Wightman F. Melton (Jan. 25, 1943-Oct. 12, 1944)
  • Oliver F. Reeves (Nov. 16, 1944-Jan. 23, 1963)
  • Agnes C. Bramblett (Sept. 13, 1963-March 30, 1973)
  • Conrad Aiken (March 30, 1973-Aug. 17, 1973)
  • John R. Lewis, Jr. (Dec. 24, 1974-Jan. 18, 1997)
  • Bettie Mixon Sellers (1997-2000)
  • David Bottoms (May 31, 2000-2012)
  • Judson Mitcham (May 4, 2012-2019)