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U.S. State Poets Laureate: A Resource Guide

New Mexico-South Carolina

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.

New Mexico-South Carolina

Current New Mexico Laureate: Levi Romero

Start of Term: January 30, 2020

Position History: In 2014, New Mexico companion House and Senate memorials (HM 35 and SM 40) requested that the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs develop a "New Mexico poet laureate" position and program to foster a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry and to highlight the importance of poetry in the everyday life of ordinary and extraordinary people to the creation of the New Mexico Poet Laureate position." Lack of funding External preventing this recommendation from being implemented, however.

Ultimately, SB 536 of the 2019 Regular Session of the New Mexico Legislature (signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 5, 2019) allocated $107,000 to the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs for the creation of a state poet laureate program. On January 30, 2020, Albuquerque poet Levi Romero was appointed New Mexico's inaugural Poet Laureate. New Mexico became the 46th state to offer an official state poet or state writer position.

According to the New Mexico State Library Poetry Center External:

The three-year position of Poet Laureate includes an annual stipend of $25,000, travel and printing expenses, and part-time staff support. The position will support literacy and enhance education while promoting arts enrichment across the state. Through speaking engagements statewide and programs at schools and libraries, the poet will engage all New Mexicans with poetry. They will also document their travels via web journal and podcast.

Current New York Laureate: Willie Perdomo (official title: State Poet)

Start of Term: January 30, 2020

Position History: 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 poets. 1. 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.

On January 8, 2016, Governor Cuomo appointed Joseph Tusiani External 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.

Previous Laureates:

  • 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)
  • Yusef Komunyakaa (2015-2017)
  • Alicia Ostriker (2018-2021)

Further Resources

Current North Carolina Laureate: Jaki Shelton Green

Start of Term: July 1, 2018

Position History: Position established 1935 (General Assembly Resolution No. 60). First laureate was Arthur Talmadge Abernethy. The laureate is appointed by the governor, typically with the advice of a committee assembled by the North Carolina Arts Council. The term of office, formerly lifetime, and then five years, is now two years.

On July 11, 2014, Valerie Macon, was appointed to the position by Gov. Pat. McCrory without input from the North Carolina Arts Council. Almost immediately after the appointment Gov. McCrory's was criticized for his selection process, and Macon's qualifications for the position questioned External. Macon resigned from the position External on July 17, 2014, after less than one week in office. The position remained open until December 22, when Gov. McCrorary appointed Shelby Stephenson the new state poet. Stephenson was inducted as laureate on February 2, 2015.

The current poet laureate, Jaki Shelton Green, was appointed to a second two-year term by Gov. Roy Cooper in May 2021.

Previous Laureates:

  • Arthur Abernethy (1948-1953)
  • James Larkin Pearson (1953-1981)
  • Sam Ragan (1982-April 1996)
  • Fred Chappell (December 10, 1997-December 2002)
  • Kathryn Stripling Byer (February 24, 2005-February 2009)
  • Cathy Smith Bowers (February 10, 2010-June 30, 2012)
  • Joseph Bathanti (September 20, 2012-July 10, 2014)
  • Valerie Macon (July 11, 2014-July 17, 2014)
  • Shelby Stephenson (February 2, 2015-July 30, 2018)
  • Jaki Shelton Green (July 1, 2018-

Further Resources

Current North Dakota Laureate: Larry Woiwode

Start of Term: 1995

Position History: Position established February 8, 1957 (Senate Concurrent Resolution E, 1957 S.L., p. 843). It is a lifetime position; however, the Academy of American Poets notes External that on June 25, 2004, "Woiwode named seven associates to help bring 'an enlightened literary consciousness' to people around the state: Dave Solheim, Shadd Piehl, Madelyn Camrud, Rick Watson, Heid Erdrich, Louise Erdrich, and Jamie Parsley."

On June 20, 2019, current poet laureate Larry Woiwode named Bonnie Larson Staiger External an Associate Poet Laureate "to help bring an increased awareness of poetry to people around the state." The official installation ceremony occurred July 10, 2019. During the three weeks between Woiwode's announcement and the installation ceremony, and unbeknownst to Woiwode at the time, the Budget Section of North Dakota's Legislative Branch considered a grant transfer proposal from the state Council on the Arts that would have eliminated the entire poet laureate program. The Budget Section rejected the request External in a 34-1 vote.

In 2000, David Solheim was named North Dakota Centennial Poet by the North Dakota Centennial Commission.

Previous Laureates:

  • Corbin A. Waldron (1957-April 1978)
  • Henry R. Martinson (1979-November 1981)
  • Lydia O. Jackson (1979-April 1984)

Current Ohio Laureate: Kari Gunter-Seymour

Start of Term: June 10, 2020

Position History: Amended Substitute Senate Bill Number 84, which created the position of Ohio Poet Laureate, was signed into into law by Gov. John Kasich on December 19, 2014. According to the law:

The Ohio poet laureate shall be appointed by the governor from a list of not less than three candidates recommended by the Ohio arts council based on qualifications developed by the arts council under division (F) of section 3379.03 of the Revised Code. The arts council shall submit its list of candidates to the governor not less than ninety days prior to the beginning of the Ohio poet laureate's term of office.

The term of office is two years, with the possibility of reappointment by the governor.

Amit Majmudar, Ohio's first laureate, was appointed to the position External on December 17, 2015.

Previous Laureates:

  • Amit Majmudar (January 1, 2016-December 31, 2017)
  • Dave Lucas (January 5, 2018-June 9, 2020)

Further Resources

Current Oklahoma Laureate: Joe Russell Kreger

Start of Term: April 22, 2021

Position History: Position established June 21, 1923 (Statutes, 1995 Supplement, Sec. 98.4). Full text of law follows:

§25-98.4. State Poet Laureate.

There is hereby designated the honorary position of State Poet Laureate. The State Poet Laureate shall be appointed by the Governor from lists provided by poetry societies and organizations and such person shall have this honorary position for a period of two (2) years. Each appointment shall be made by January 1 of every odd year beginning January 1, 1995. The person appointed to the honorary position of State Poet Laureate shall not be considered a state official or a state employee for such person's service in the honorary position of State Poet Laureate. The State Poet Laureate shall not be prohibited because of said appointed position from:
1. Running for and being elected to any office in the state or a political subdivision of the state; or
2. Being employed as a classified or unclassified employee of the state or a political subdivision of the state.

Added by Laws 1994, c. 53, § 1.

The Oklahoma Arts Council website provides the following information about the position:

The Oklahoma Arts Council works on behalf of the Office of the Governor to solicit nominations for the honorary position of Oklahoma State Poet Laureate. The position was codified in 1994 through State Statute 98.4. According to the legislation, the appointment by the Governor shall be made by January 1 of every odd year thus the Oklahoma State Poet Laureate serves for a period of two years.

During even numbered years, the Oklahoma Arts Council puts out a call for nominations from cultural organizations, such as poetry societies, writers’ groups, colleges and universities, local arts and humanities councils, and libraries. A review committee that may consist of poets, university professors, former poets laureate, and others with expertise in poetry reviews submissions and makes a recommendation to the Governor. The final determination and appointment of the Oklahoma State Poet Laureate is made by the Governor. Poets laureate appointments holdover until a succeeding Oklahoma State Poet Laureate is named.

Previous Laureates:

  • Violet McDougal (1923-1930)
  • Paul Kroeger (1931-1940)
  • Jennie Harris Oliver (1940-1943)
  • Della I. Young (1943-1944)
  • Anne Ruth Semple (1944-1945)
  • Bess Truitt (1945-1946) (No other poets laureate were named until 1963, so Truitt is generally considered the state's poet laureate until then.)
  • Delbert Davis (1963-1966)
  • Rudolph N. Hill (1966-1970)
  • Leslie A. McRill (1970-1977)
  • Maggie Culver Fry (1977-1995)
  • Carol Hamilton (1995-1997)
  • Betty Shipley (1997-1998)
  • Joe Kreger (1998-2001)
  • Carl Sennhenn (2001-2003)
  • Francine Ringold (2003-2007)
  • N. Scott Momaday (July 12, 2007-Jan. 1, 2009) (Official title: Oklahoma Centennial State Poet Laureate)
  • Jim Barnes (January 15, 2009- December 31, 2010)
  • Eddie Wilcoxen (January 2011-December 31, 2012)
  • Nathan Brown (January 2013-December 31, 2014)
  • Benjamin Myers (February 11, 2015-December 31, 2016)
  • Jeanetta Calhoun Mish (March 23, 2017-April 2021)

Further Resources

Current Oregon Laureate: Anis Mojgani

Start of Term: April 27, 2020

Position History: Position established by the governor, April 23, 1923; adopted by Legislature in 1989 (Laws, 1989, Chap. 122, Sec. 1,2,3; Statutes, 1994 Supplement, Sec. 357.925). First laureate was Edwin Markham. The position began as a lifetime appointment, and remained such until William Stafford's tenure ended in August 1989.

In 2006, funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust External "supported the reinstatement of Oregon’s poet laureate . . . and each laureate’s outreach as an ambassador of poetry across the state." The position was changed from a lifetime appointment to a two-year appointment, renewal for a second two-year term. Lawson Inada was the first Oregon Poet Laureate appointed under the new term limits.

Previous Laureates:

  • Edwin Markham (April 23, 1923-1931)
  • Ben Hur Lampman (February 20, 1951-1954)
  • Ethel Romig Fuller (1957-1965)
  • William Stafford (October 1975-August 1989)
  • Lawson Fusao Inada (February 17, 2006-2010
  • Paulann Petersen (April 26, 2010-April 24, 2014)
  • Peter Sears (April 25, 2014-April 26, 2016)
  • Elizabeth Woody (April 27, 2016-May 14, 2018)
  • Kim Stafford (May 15, 2018-April 26, 2020)

Further Resources

Pennsylvania Position History: The position of Pennsylvania Poet Laureate, established in 1993, no longer exists. The first and only state poet laureate, Sam Hazo, was appointed May 24, 1993 by Gov. Bob Casey. On May 1, 2003, Hazo was notified by an aide to Gov. Ed Rendell that his "services were no longer needed." Rendell's decision to remove Hazo from office effectively terminated the position of Pennsylvania poet laureate. For more information, see the October 10, 2004 article "It's Official: Every Poet is a State Poet External" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.

Previous Laureates:

  • Samuel Hazo (1993-2003)

Current Rhode Island Laureate: Tina Cane

Start of Term: November 4, 2016

Position History: Position established 1987; codified in Sec. 42-100-1, General Laws. Former Poet Laureate Rick Benjamin stepped down from the position External on January 15, 2016, in order move to California and teach at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was replaced by Tina Cane on November 4, 2016.

Previous Laureates:

  • Michael Steven Harper (1988-1993)
  • C.D. Wright (1994-1999)
  • Tom Chandler (September 1, 2000-April 2007)
  • Lisa Starr (April 12, 2007-2012)
  • Rick Benjamin (Jan. 9, 2013-Jan. 15, 2016)

Current South Carolina Laureate: Position currently vacant.

Position History: Position established 1934 (General Assembly Joint Resolution 736, 1934; Code of Laws, 2005, Sec. 1-3-230). The poet is appointed by the governor. The South Carolina Arts Commission provides the following additional information:

Upon the recommendation of qualified candidates by the South Carolina Arts Commission, the governor shall name and appoint an outstanding and distinguished person of letters as poet laureate for the State of South Carolina.

The position is for a term of four years and until a successor has been appointed and qualified. A poet laureate is eligible for reappointment one time.

Marjory Heath Wentworth, appointed poet laureate by Gov. Mark Sanford in 2003, resigned from the position External effective October 1, 2020. The term of office, which originally had no fixed length prior to Wentworth's resignation, was changed after her departure to a four-year term.

Previous Laureates:

  • Archibald Rutledge (1934-1973)
  • Helen von Kolnitz Hyer (1974-1983)
  • Ennis Rees (1984-1985)
  • Grace Freeman(1985-1986)
  • Bennie Lee Sinclair (1986-2000)
  • Marjory Heath Wentworth (2003-2020)

Further Resources