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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 Hawaii Laureate: Kealoha (Steven Kealohapau'ole Hong-Ming Wong)

Start of Term: December 1, 2021

Position History: Steven Kealohapau'ole Hong-Ming Wong, who writes under the pen name "Kealoha," was appointed the first official Hawaii Poet Laureate by Governor Neil Abercrombie on May 3, 2012. The length of Kealoha's term is at the Governor's discretion.

Current Idaho Laureate: CMarie Fuhrman (Official Title: Writer in Residence)

Start of Term: July 1, 2021

Position History: The position of Idaho Poet Laureate was established in 1923 with the appointment of Irene Welsh Grissom by Governor C. C. Moore. Following the death of Sudie Stuart Hager in 1982, the position was changed to Writer-in-Residence.

Previous Laureates:

  • Irene Welsh Grissom (1923-1948)
  • Sudie Stuart Hager (1949-1982)
  • Ron McFarland (1984-1985) (first person named Writer-in-Residence)
  • Robert Wrigley (1986-1987) Eberle Umbach
  • (1988-1989) Neidy Messer (1990-1991)
  • Daryl Jones (1992-1993)
  • Clay Morgan (1994-1995)
  • Lance Olsen (1996-1998)
  • Bill Johnson (1999-2000)
  • Jim Irons (July 2, 2001-2004)
  • Kim Barnes (April 2004-2006)
  • Anthony "Tony" Doerr (July 2007-July 2010)
  • Brady Udall (July 1, 2010-June 20, 2013)
  • Diane Raptosh (July 1, 2013-2016)
  • Christian Winn (July 1, 2016-June 2019)
  • Malia Collins, Boise (July 1, 2019-June 2021)

Further Resources

Current Illinois Laureate: Angela Jackson

Start of Term: November 25, 2020

Position History: Position established January 14, 1936 with the appointment of Howard Austin by Governor Edward J. Hughes. The position was a lifetime appointment until 2003, when Governor Rod R. Blagojevich revised the guidelines for the position, making it a four-year renewable term.

Poet laureate Kevin Stein's terms as Illinois Poet Laureate ended December 1, 2017. On June 30, 2020, Governor Pritzker proclaimed singer-songwriter John Prine the first Honorary Poet Laureate of the state. Several months later, Gov. Pritzker announced the appointment of Angela Jackson as the state's new poet laureate, filling the position vacant since 2017. First Lady MK Pritzker served as Honorary Chair and Final Judge of the 2020 Illinois Poet Laureate Search Committee.

Previous Laureates:

  • Howard Austin (January 14, 1936-April 1, 1962)
  • Carl Sandburg (February 28, 1962-July 22, 1967)
  • Gwendolyn Brooks (January 3, 1968-December 4, 2000)
  • Kevin Stein (December 11, 2003-December 1, 2017).

Further Resources

Current Official Indiana Laureate: Matthew Graham

Start of Term: January 1, 2020 (term ended December 31, 202, though he is still listed as poet laureate on the Indiana Poet Laureate website)

Current Premier Poet (unofficial poet laureate: Sarah E. Morin

Start of Term: Fall 2019 (term ends Fall 2022)

Position History: Senate Enrolled Act No. 433 (effective July 1, 2005; codified as IC 1-2-12) created the official position of Indiana State Poet Laureate. The first state poet laureate was Joyce Brinkman, who was honored as poet laureate of Indiana by the house of representatives in House Resolution 73-2002. Laureates serve a two-year term that begins January 1 following their selection. Selection of the Indiana State Poet Laureate is made by the executive director of the Indiana Arts Commission along with seven members chosen by the commission who represent state supported and private institutions of higher education.

Indiana also has a well-established unofficial position of state poet laureate. In 1929, Emory A. Richardson was appointed poet laureate. In 1977, House Concurrent Resolution 63 recognized Arthur Franklin Mapes as poet laureate. Beginning in 1945, the Poetry Society of Indiana, formerly known as the Indiana State Federation of Poetry Clubs (ISFPC), has appointed the poet laureate. From 1945-1974, a new laureate was chosen each year. The term length was extended to two years in 1976, and then to five years in 1993. From 1998 to 2007, the term of office was three years. In the fall of 2007, the title of the position was changed to "Premier Poet" to avoid confusion with the state-appointed poet laureate, and Peggy Martin was selected the first Premier Poet. At the time of Martin's naming, previous living poets laureate Glenna Glee Jenkins, Esther Towns, Carol Ogdon Floyd, Kay (Kinnaman) Sims and Jeanne Losey were rehonored as Premier Poets. The selection of the Premier Poet is chosen by an Poetry Society of Indiana committee consisting of the current President, 1st Vice President, and the reigning Premier Poet External. The Premier Poet must be an Indiana resident.

Previous Official Laureates:

  • Joyce Brinkman (July 1, 2005-June 2008)
  • Norbert Krapf (June 17, 2008-June 2010)
  • Karen Kovacik (Jan. 1, 2012-Dec. 31, 2013)
  • George Kalamaras (Jan. 1, 2014-Dec. 31, 2015)
  • Shari Wagner(Jan. 1, 2016-Dec. 31, 2017)
  • Adrian Matejka(Jan. 1, 2018-Dec. 31, 2019)

Previous Unofficial Laureates (Premier Poets):

  • Emory A. Richardson (named 1929 by motion of the General Assembly)
  • Mary Hagler LeMaster (1945)
  • Florence Marie Taylor (1946)
  • William Chitwood (1947)
  • Effie Lydia Fisher (1948)
  • Mina Morris Scott (1949)
  • Ollah Eloise Toph (1950)
  • Alma C. Mahan (1951)
  • Mable Newman (1952)
  • Myrl G. New (1953)
  • Thelma Howell Porter (1954)
  • Nellie Baldwin Rudser (1955)
  • Samuel S. Biddle (1956)
  • Gwen Robert Boyer (1957)
  • Jeannette Vaughn Konley (1958)
  • Clarence O. Adams (1959)
  • Carl Stader (1960-1961)
  • Mildred Musgrave (1962)
  • Mable Skeen (1963)
  • Lloyd Whitehead (1964)
  • Glen Galbraith (1965)
  • Frances Brown Price (1966)
  • Elsie Startzman (1967)
  • Mildred Musgrave Shartle (1968)
  • Paul Startzman (1969)
  • Dr. Earl Marlott (1970)
  • Marjorie Sea Fortmeyer (1971)
  • Mary Simmons (1972)
  • Florence Helen McGaughey (1973)
  • Frances Brown Price (1974)
  • Laverne Hanson Brown (1976-1977)
  • Arthur Franklin Mapes (named 1977 by House Concurrent Resolution 63)
  • Glenna Glee Jenkins (1979-1980)
  • Vivian Pierson Ramsey (1981-1982)
  • Esther Alman (1983-1984)
  • Kay (Kinnaman) Sims (1985-1986)
  • Dena Adams (1987-1988)
  • Paula Fehn (1989-1990)
  • Dr. J.C.Bacala (1991-1992)
  • Jeanne Losey (1993-1997)
  • Esther Towns (1998-2000)
  • Glenna Glee Jenkins (2001-2003)
  • Carol Ogdon Floyd (2004-October 2007)
  • Peggy Martin (Fall 2007-Fall 2010)
  • Cecil Tresslar (Fall 2010-Fall 2013)
  • Mary Couch (Fall 2013-Fall 2016)
  • Michael Erdelen (October 2016-Fall 2019)

Further Resources

Current Iowa Laureate: Debra Marquart

Start of Term: May 2019

Position History: Position created July 1, 1999; codified in Subchapter 303.89 of the Iowa Code. The position is a two-year renewable term. Additional information from the Iowa Arts Council:

The position is a two-year renewable appointment managed by the Iowa Arts Council and Humanities Iowa that is entitled to no compensation as a result of the appointment but whose poetic accomplishments deserve recognition as the State Poet Laureate. The position is selected by the Governor from a list of three nominees put forth by a volunteer citizen committee selected by Humanities Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. The nominating committee is charged with considering the diversity of the people and poetry of Iowa.

Previous Laureates:

  • Marvin Bell (March 10, 2000-2004)
  • Robert Dana (September 7, 2004-2008)
  • Mary Swander(February 18, 2009-2019)

Further Resources

Current Kansas Laureate: Huascar Medina

Start of Term: April 17, 2019

Position History: Governor Kathleen Sebelius and the Kansas Arts Commission established a Kansas Poet Laureate program in 2004. According to a July 1, 2004, news release External from the Office of the Governor, "the original impetus for the creation of a poet laureate post in Kansas began in response to numerous requests received at the Kansas Arts Commission and the Office of the Governor suggesting that such a position be established. Responding to those requests, the Kansas Arts Commission voted to proceed (with the approval of the Governor) in the development of guidelines for a poet laureate position. Guidelines were developed with input from Kansas poets and KAC staff research of other states’ poet laureate programs." After Gov. Sam Brownback dissolved the Kansas Arts Commission in 2011, the Kansas Humanities Council (name changed to Humanities Kansas in 2018) took over coordination of the Kansas Poet Laureate program.

On July 1, 2021, Governor Laura Kelly announced the Kansas Poet Laureate program would return to the Kansas Arts Commission, which in 2012 merged with the Kansas Film Commission and was renamed the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC). KCAIC is part of the Community Development Division in the Kansas Department of Commerce.

Previous Laureates:

  • Jonathan Holden (July 1, 2005-June 30, 2007)
  • Denise Low (July 1, 2007-June 30, 2009)
  • Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (July 1, 2009- May 23, 2013)
  • Wyatt Townley (May 23, 2013-April 2015)
  • Eric McHenry (May 1, 2015-April 19, 2017)
  • Kevin Rabas (April 20, 2017-April 19, 2019)

Further Resources

Current Kentucky Laureate: Crystal Wilkinson

Start of Term: April 24, 2019

Position History: Position established 1926 by act of the General Assembly. First laureate was James T. Cotton Noe. Prior to 1990, poets were appointed by the General Assembly to lifetime terms, and several poets held the position simultaneously. In 1990, new legislation (Kentucky Code, Sec. 153.600) provided for appointment by the governor to a two-year term.

Previous Laureates:

  • James Thomas Cotton Noe (March 1926-Nov. 9, 1953)
  • Edward G. Hill (Oct 1., 1928-Nov. 8, 1937)
  • Louise Scott Phillips (1945-1983)
  • Edwin Carlisle Litsey (1954-Feb. 3, 1970)
  • Jesse Hilton Stuart (1954-1984)
  • Lowell Allen Williams (appointed 1956)
  • Lillie D. Chaffin (appointed 1974)
  • Tom Mobley (appointed 1976)
  • Agnes O'Rear (March 7, 1978-1990)
  • Clarence "Soc" Clay (appointed 1984)
  • Lee Pennington (appointed 1984)
  • Paul Salyers (appointed 1984)
  • Dale Faughn (appointed 1986)
  • Jim Wayne Miller (appointed 1986)
  • Henry E. Pilkenton (appointed 1986)
  • James H. Patton (appointed 1990)
  • James Still (1995-1996)
  • Joy Bale Boone (1997-1998)
  • Richard Taylor (1999-2000)
  • James Baker Hall (2001-2002)
  • Joe Survant (2003-2004)
  • Sena Jeter Naslund (2005-2006)
  • Jane Gentry Vance (2007-2008)
  • Gurney Norman (2009-2010)
  • Maureen Morehead (2011-2012)
  • Frank X Walker (April 24, 2013-2015)
  • George Ella Lyon (April 24, 2015-2016)
  • Frederick Smock (May 1, 2017-2019)
  • Jeff Worley (April 24, 2019-2021)

Further Resources

Current Louisiana Laureate: Mona Lisa Saloy

Start of Term: April 14, 2021

Position History: Position established 1942 (Revised Statutes, 49:171 and 49:173). First laureate was Emma Wilson Emery. The poet is appointed by the governor to a term of two years. Formerly, the term of appointment was concurrent with that of the governor. Darrell Bourque, appointed poet laureate in November 2007 by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, was notified on June 24, 2008 External, that through an oversight his "name was not submitted to the Senate for confirmation for the position of Louisiana State Poet Laureate" for the second year of his term and as such the position of Louisiana state poet was deemed vacant. On May 20, 2009, Gov. Bobby Jindal officially appointed Bourque Louisiana's poet laureate.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities notes on its website External that it "oversees the Louisiana Poet Laureate nomination process in partnership with the Governor of Louisiana and sponsors Poet Laureate public programming in libraries, museums, schools, community centers, and other non-profit cultural institutions throughout the state."

Previous Laureates:

  • Emma Wilson Emery (1942-1970)
  • Ethel Green Russell (1970-1973)
  • Dr. George William Noel Cooper (1973-1976)
  • Henry Thomas Voltz (1976-1980)
  • Jean McGivney Boese (1980-1988)
  • Pinkie Gordon Lane(1988-1992)
  • Sylvia Davison Lott Buckley (1992-1996)
  • Jean McGivney Boese (1996-2004)
  • Brenda Marie Osbey (March 7, 2005-2007)
  • Darrell Bourque (November 2007-June 2008; May 20, 2009-May 2011)
  • Julie Kane (May 2011-May 2013)
  • Ava Leavell Haymon (June 21, 2013-June 2015)
  • Peter Cooley (August 14, 2015-August 14, 2017)
  • Jack Bedell (August 15, 2017-August 13, 2019)
  • John Warner Smith (August 14, 2019-August 13, 2021)

Further Resources

Current Maine Laureate: Julia Bouwsma

Start of Term: August 4, 2021

Position History: Position established June 2, 1995 (Maine Public Law 1995, chapter 264); codified in Title 27, Chapter 15, Subchapter 2 of the Maine Revised Statutes. The State Poet Laureate is appointed by the governor, from a list of candidates recommended by the Maine Arts Commission, for a five-year term and may be reappointed for a second term.

Previous Laureates:

  • Kate Barnes (1996-1999)
  • Baron Wormser (March 2000-October 2005)
  • Betsy Sholl (April 19, 2006-March 2011)
  • Wesley McNair (March 11, 2011-March 23, 2016)
  • Stuart Kestenbaum (March 24, 2016-2021)

Further Resources

Current Maryland Laureate: Grace Cavalieri

Start of Term: December 14, 2018

Position History: Position created 1959 through an act of the General Assembly (Chapter 178, Acts of 1959; Maryland State Code, Sec. 13-306 External). The Office of Governor Larry Hogan notes:

The Maryland Poet Laureate position was formally established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1959 and authorizes the governor to appoint a citizen of the state as Poet Laureate of Maryland. The Poet Laureate provides public readings for the citizens of Maryland, ensuring that people in all geographic regions of the state have access to at least one reading during the term of service. The Poet Laureate also undertakes projects that make poetry more available and accessible to citizens of Maryland of all ages. The Poet Laureate is appointed by the governor based on a recommendation from the Poet Laureate Review Committee, a diverse committee of qualified individuals who represent various arts and humanities communities throughout the state.

Previous Laureates:

  • Maria B. Coker (1959-1962)
  • Vincent Godfrey Burns (1962-1979)
  • Lucille Clifton (1979-1985)
  • Reed Whittemore (1985-1988)
  • Linda Pastan (1991-1995)
  • Roland Flint (September 1995-October 2000)
  • Michael Collier (February 27, 2001-August 2, 2004)
  • Michael S. Glaser (August 2, 2004-September 2009)
  • Stanley Plumly (September 29, 2009-December 13, 2018)

Further Resources