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State Poets Laureate Roundup

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Natasha Trethewey is the current U.S Poet Laureate and State Poet Laureate of Mississippi. Photo by Matt Valentine.
Natasha Trethewey, State Poet Laureate of Mississipi . . . and our Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Photo by Matt Valentine.

It’s been a while since I provided an update on current state poets laureate. As of this writing, forty-two states have an official position of state poet laureate, while two states, Alaska and Idaho, have a position for “State Writer Laureate” and “Writer-in-Residence,” respectively. The position of state poet laureate or state writer is occupied in forty-two of these forty-four states. Florida, one of the two states with a vacancy, is close to having its position revamped by Florida lawmakers through Senate Bill 290, which would change the post from a lifetime to a four-year appointment.

Since the beginning of the year six states* have seen new poets laureate take office: Arizona (Alberto Ríos); Indiana (George Kalamaras); New Hampshire (Alice B. Fogel); Oregon (Peter Sears); Texas (Dean Young), and Washington (Elizabeth Austen).

A complete list of current state poets laureate follows. Poets who began their appointments in 2014 are highlighted in red.

 State  Laureate
 Alabama  Andrew Glaze
 Alaska  Nora Marks Dauenhauer
 Arizona  Alberto Ríos
 Arkansas  Peggy Vining
 California  Juan Felipe Herrera
 Colorado  David Mason
 Connecticut  Dick Allen
 Delaware  JoAnn Balingit
 District of Columbia  Dolores Kendrick
 Florida  Vacant
 Georgia  Judson Mitcham
 Hawaii  Kealoha (Steven Kealohapau’ole Hong-Ming Wong)
 Idaho  Diane Raptosh
 Illinois  Kevin Stein
 Indiana  Unofficial: Cecil Tresslar
Official: George Kalamaras
 Iowa  Mary Swander
 Wyatt Townley
 Kentucky  Frank X Walker
 Louisiana  Ava Leavell Haymon
 Maine  Wesley McNair
 Maryland  Stanley Plumly
 Massachusetts  No position
 Michigan  No position
 Minnesota  Joyce Sutphen
 Mississippi  Natasha Trethewey
 Missouri  William Trowbridge
 Montana  Tami Haaland
 Nebraska  Twyla Hansen
 Nevada  Vacant
 New Hampshire  Alice B. Fogel
 New Jersey  No position
 New Mexico  No position
 New York  Marie Howe
 North Carolina  Joseph Bathanti
 North Dakota
 Larry Woiwode
 Ohio  No position
 Oklahoma  Nathan Brown
 Oregon  Peter Sears
 No Position
 Rhode Island  Rick Benjamin
 South Carolina  Marjory Heath Wentworth
 South Dakota  David Allan Evans
 Tennessee  Margaret Britton Vaughn
 Texas  Dean Young
 Utah  Lance Larsen
 Vermont  Sydney Lea
 Virginia  Sofia Starnes
 Washington  Elizabeth Austen
 West Virginia  Marc Harshman
 Wisconsin  Max Garland
 Wyoming  Echo Roy Klaproth

One of my resolutions for National Poetry Month is to provide regular updates on the blog about new state poet appointments Please feel free to help me keep the list of state poets laureate current by contacting me with any changes you discover in the above positions.

*Update: Astute reader Ed Stover has pointed out that Washington state recently appointed Elizabeth Austen its new poet laureate. I have updated the blog post to reflect this.

Comments (7)

  1. In Washington state, Seattle-based poet Elizabeth Austen was recently named the state’s new poet laureate for the next two years. She succeeds Kathleen Flenniken. Go to the Humanities Washington website for more information.

    Thanks, Ed Stover

    • Dear Ed,

      Thanks so much for this information. I will update the blog post to note that Ms. Austen is Washington’s current poet laureate.


  2. Thanks for providing this list and all the updates and information. I am happy to know that Florida will (hopefully) fill its vacant seat and revamp the necessary legislation for four-year terms. Without your post, I would not have known this. Thank you! Seeing the full list of poets/writers is so inspirational. It is wonderful to see so many accomplished writers and creative minds and I will be on the look out for their work, even more so now that I know their names. It is also inspiring that the vast majority of states recognize the importance of the literary arts although I was shocked and surprised at the states that have no post. I can only hope that this will change in the near future. Again, thank you, Library of Congress for this post and all the wonderful things you consistently do!

  3. As a person familiar with many amazing and involved poets in Pennsylvania, I am wondering what the “No Position” means exactly… and to whom to direct a request to create a State Laureate? Any guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for this wonderful resource!

    • Kimberly, great questions! “No Position” simply means that Pennsylvania does not have a State Poet Laureate position. Rather than provide a long response in the comments about how to lobby for a position of State Poet Laureate, I think I’ll blog about it. Look for a post on Friday!


  4. @ Kimberly Crafton

    The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, housed at Penn State Libraries, is a good place to start in PA. They sponsor wonderful poetry outreach already, with the Public Poetry Project, and will likely be able to give you details about any initiatives in PA to establish a state PL.

    Sharon Shaloo/Massachusetts Center for the Book

  5. Any guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for this wonderful resource!

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