In a February blog post on State Poets Laureate I mentioned that From the Catbird Seat would periodically update readers when new State Poets are appointed. During the past five weeks there have been a flurry of changes to State Poet positions, making this an opportune time to give a brief roundup of recent activity.
- Sofia Starnes was appointed Virginia’s new State Poet on August 3, replacing Kelly Cherry. The term-length for the position is two years.
- On August 19, Florida’s poet laureate Edmund Skellings passed away, creating a vacancy in the position. Florida is one of a few remaining states to have a lifetime Poet Laureate position; Skellings had occupied it since 1980. It is not yet clear when—or if—the position will be filled, or whether the term-length of the position will be adjusted. A bill (HB 1479) in the Florida House of Representatives to change the position to a four-year term died on the Floor in March.
- New York appointed a new Poet Laureate, Marie Howe, on August 29. Howe replaces Jean Valentine for a two-year term.
- On August 30, Joseph Bathanti was named North Carolina’s new Poet Laureate; his two-year term will begin officially on September 20, 2012.
On the day Joseph Bathanti begins his term as North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, who is the first person to serve simultaneously as U.S. Poet Laureate and a State Poet Laureate (Mississippi), will be giving a reading at Mississippi’s Jackson State University. This won’t be her first reading as U.S. Poet Laureate, however. Trethewey’s inaugural reading as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry takes place this evening, September 13, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time in the Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium, located on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building. The event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a book signing and reception. For those of you who don’t live close enough to attend, the program will be recorded and eventually made available on the Library’s Web site as a webcast. And there’s still an excellent chance you’ll be able to see Trethewey in person at a venue closer to home. Her current 2012/2013 reading schedule has her traveling to 19 states as of this posting: California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Natasha Trethewey’s tireless promotion of the literary arts in her home state and across the country demonstrates her wholehearted embrace of her unique dual role as U.S. and Mississippi Poet Laureate. On the eve of her inaugural reading as U.S. Poet Laureate, we at From the Catbird Seat wish Natasha the best of luck during her time at the Library. If you would like to share your own message with Natasha Trethewey, leave a comment below or email it to the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center.