The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, as stated on the Library of Congress’ website, “seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.” It is an honorable title, and a position that I regard with respect; not only because the Poet Laureate Consultants inspire poetry in the nation, but also because state and local laureates do so, as well.
How does a laureate inspire poetry in a nation, a state, a city of people? That question has been answered in a number of ways (and continues to be answered by official, and non official laureates, too): poet laureate emeritus of San Francisco, Jack Hirschman organized the International Poetry Festival, which was held at The Palace of Fine Arts and featured poets whose work advocates for social justice from Sudan, Greece, and Bangledesh to name a few, and Chicago poet laureate Kevin Stein curates a state-sponsored website that features notable Illinois poets, poetry for young people, advice for young people, an Illinois emerging writer’s contest, poetry on CD, and video poetry.
If you visit the library’s Web Guides at https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/poetslaureate/ you will find a comprehensive list of poets who served as Poet Laureate Consultants in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1986 to present), and poets who served as Consultants in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1937 to 1985). The two titles are equivalent but, because there are few formal requirements (this is true for state and local laureates, too), the responsibilities of the Consultants in Poetry were different than those of the Poet Laureate Consultants, respectively; for a description of the differences visit the blog From the Catbird Seat: Poetry & Literature at the Library of Congress (https://blogs.loc.gov/catbird/2012/02/what-do-poets-laureate-do/).
The year I was born, Robert Hayden was Consultant in Poetry; he was the first African American to hold office. (I first read Hayden in college, one of his famous poems, “Those Winter Sundays”; “Those Winter Sundays” in a few ways made an indelible impression on my thoughts about fatherhood and work: the work of the poet (remembrances) and the work of poetry (prosody). Although Hayden’s poem is directly about the work of the father, I understood it to be indirectly about the work the poet did to come to terms, presumably as an adult, with the real value of the “thankless” work his father did; I learned later that Hayden was adopted and a scholar of African American history, but that his stance of not wanting to be called a Black poet drew criticism from younger black poets of that time; I also learned that he was friends with Dudley Randall—who served as poet laureate of Detroit, and whose anthology, “The Black Poets,” was my first look at a number of poets that came before me such, as Claude McKay, Sterling Brown, and Gwendolyn Brooks; Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American woman to serve as Consultant in Poetry, and she also served as state poet laureate of Illinois.
Because the job description of the Poet Laureate Consultant of Poetry to the Library of Congress isn’t scripted, I’ve long-held an interest in what each laureate did, does, during his or her term in office. The Library of Congress lists several projects initiated by the Poet Laureate Consultants that garnered national attention (Robert Pinsky’s The Favorite Poem Project, Kay Ryan’s Poetry for the Mind’s Joy, and Natasha Trethewey’s Where Poetry Lives , to name a few; Trethewey also served as state poet laureate of Mississippi).
And so here is a list of city and state laureates with a link to a description—if a description is available—of their projects, respectively; or a link to their respective websites. While compiling this list I realized that there are as many unofficial laureates as there are official laureates and that anyone, any where, who reads, writes, and loves poetry, can inspire poetry in others and celebrate poetry with others. I hope this list will serve as a resource of ideas for how it was and could be done.
Alabama: Andrew Glaze (2013-2017)|Sue Walker (2003-2012) | Helen Norris (1999-2003) | Helen Friedman Blackshear (1995-1999) | Ralph Hammond (1992-1995) | Morton Dennison Prouty, Jr. (1988-1991) | Carl Patrick Morton (1983-1987) | William Young Elliott (1975-1982) | Bert Henderson (1959-1974) | Mary B. Ward (1954-1958) | Samuel Minturn Peck (1930-1938)
Alaska: Frank Soos (-2014) | Nora Marks Dauenhauer (2012-2014) | Peggy Shumaker (2010-2012) | Nancy Lord (2008-2010) | John Straley (2006-2008) | Jerah Chadwick (2004-2006) | Anne Hanley (2002-2004) | Richard Nelson (2000-2002) | Tom Sexton (1995-2000) | Joanne Townsend (1988-1995) | Richard Dauenhauer (1981-1988) | Sheila Nickerson (1977-1981) |Ruben Gaines (1973-1977) | John Haines (1969-1973) | Oliver Everette (1965-1969) | Margaret Mielke (1963-1965)
California: Dana Gioia (-2015) | Juan Philipe Herrera (2012-1024; current Poet Laureate Consultant, and first latino to be appointed) | Carol Muske-Dukes (2008-2011) | Al Young (2005-2008) | Quincy Troupe (2002) | Charles B. Garrigus (1966-2000) | Gordon W. Norris (1953-1961) | John Steven McGroarty (1933-1944) | Henry Meade Bland (1929-1931) | Ina Donna Coolbirth (1915-1928) || Los Angeles: Robin Coste Lewis (-2017) | Luis J. Rodriguez (2014-2017) | Eloise Klien Healy (2012-2014) || San Francisco: Kim Shuck (-2017) | Alejandro Murguia (2012-2015) | Diane di Prima (2009-2011) | Jack Hirschman (2006-2008) | devorah major (2002-2004) | Janice Mirikitani (2000-2002) | Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1998-2000) || El Cerrito: Maw Shein Win (-2016) || Emeryville: Sarah Kobrinky (2013-2015) || Richmond: Donte Clark, Brenda Quintanilla, Lincoln Bergman (2014-2016) Dwayne Parish (2012-2014)|| San Mateo: Caroline Goodwin (2014-2016) || Santa Clara County: Arlene Biala (2016-2018) || Cupertino: Ann Muto (2016-2017) | Amanda Williamsen (2015-2016) | Jennifer Swanton Brown (2013-2015) | David Denny (2011-2013) || Berkeley: Raphael Jesus Gonzalez (-2017) || Sacramento: Indigo Moor (-2016) | Jeff Knorr (2012-2016) Bob Stanley (2009-2012)
Colorado: Joseph Hutchinson (-2014) | David Mason (2010-2014) | Mary Crow (1996-2010) | Thomas Hornsby Ferril (1979-1988) | Milford E. Shields (1954-1975) | Margaret Clyde Robertson (1952-1954) | Nellie Burget Miller (1923-1952) | Alice Polk Hill (1919-1921)
Delaware: Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Albert Mills (-2016) | Dr. JoAnn Balingit (2008-2015) | Dr. Fleda Brown (2001-2007) | E. Jean Lanyon (1979-1981) | David Hudson (1975-1976) | Dr. Harry O. Eisenberg (1971) | Antonia Bissell Laird (1969-1970) | Joyce Carlson (1967-1968) | Dr. Percival R. Roberts, III (1965-1966) | Mother Aloysius Peach (1963-1964) |Margaret Eleanor Weaver (1962) | Alison Kimball Bradford (1961) | David Hudson (1956-1960) | Katherine King Johnson (1955) | Frances Shannon Flowers (1954) | Jeannette Slocum Edwards (1950-1953) | Edna Deemer Leach (1947-1949)
Georgia: Judson Mitcham (-2012) | David Bottoms (2000-2012) | Bettie Mixon Sellers (1997-2000) | John R. Lewis, Jr. (1974-1997) | Conrad Aiken (1973-1973; former Consultant in Poetry, 1950-1952) | Agnes C. Bramblett (1963-1973) | Oliver F. Reeves (1944-1963) | Wightman F. Melton (1943-1944) | Ernest Neal (1927-1943) | Frank L. Staton (1925-1927)
Idaho: Diane Raptosh (-2013; also Boise Poet Laureate, 2013) | Brady Udall (2010-2013) | Anthony Tony Doerr (2007-2010) | Kim Barnes (2004-2006) | Jim Irons (2001-2004) | Bill Johnson (1999-2000) | Lance Olsen (1996-1998) | Clay Morgan (1994-1995) | Daryle Jones (1992-1993) | Neidy Messer (1990-1991) | Eberle Umbach (1988-1989) | Robert Wrigley (1986-1987) | Ron McFarland (1984-1985) | Sudie Stuart Hager (1949-1982) | Irene Welsh Grissom (1923-1948)
Kentucky: George Ella Lyon (-2015) | Frank X Walker (2013-2015) | Maureen Morehead (2011-2012) | Gurney Norman (2009-2010) | Jane Gentry Vance (2007-2008) | Sena Jeter Naslund (2005-2006) Joe Survant (2003-2004) | James Baker Hall (2001-2002) | Richard Taylor (1999-2000) | Joy Bale Boone (1997-1998) | James Still (1995-1996) | James H Patton (1990) | Henry E. Pilkenton (1986) | Jim Wayne Miller (1986) | Dale Faughn (1986) | Paul Salyers (1984) | Lee Pennington (1984) | Clarence “Soc” Clay (1984) | Agnes O’Rear (1978-1990) | Tom Mobley (1976) | Lillie D. Chaffin (1974) | Lowell Allen Williams (1956) | Jesse Hilton Stuart (1954-1984) | Edwin Carlisle Litsey (1954-1970) | Louise Scott Phillips (1954-1983) | Edward G. Hill (1928-1937) | James Thomas Cotton Noe (1926-1953)
Louisiana: Peter Cooley (-2015) | Ava Leavell Haymon (2013-2015) | Julie Kane (2011-2013) | Darrell Bourque (2007-2008, 2009-2010) | Brenda Marie Osbey (2005-2007) | Jean McGivney Boese (1980-1988) | Henry Thomas Voltz (1976-1980) | Dr. George William Noel Cooper (1973-1976) | Ethel Green Russell (1970-1973) | Emma Wilson Emery (1942-1970)
Maryland: Stanley Plumly (-2009) | Michael S. Glaser (2004-2009) | Michael Collier (2001-2004) | Roland Flint (1995-2000) | Linda Pastan (1991-1995) | Reed Whittemore (1985-1988) | Lucille Clifton (1979-1985) | Vincent Godfrey Burns (1962-1979) | Maria B. Coker (1959-1962)
Michigan: position does not currently exist | Edgar A. Guest (1952-1959) || Grand Rapids: Marcel “Fable” Price (2017-) | L.S. Klatt (2014-2017) | David Cope (2014-2011) | Rodney Torreson (2010-2007) | Patricia Clark (2007-2005) | Linda Nemec Foster (2005-2003) || St. Claire Shores: M.L. Liebler (-2005) || Upper Peninsula: Russell Thorburn (2015-2013)
Mississippi: Beth Ann Fennelly (-2016) | Natasha Trethewey (2012; former Poetry Consultant, 2012-2014) | Winifred Hamrick Farrar (1978-2010) | Louise Moss Montgomery (1973-1978) | Maude Willard Leet Prenshaw (1963-1971)
Nevada: vacant (-2007) | Norman Kaye (1967-2007) | Mildred Breedlove (1957-1967)
New Hampshire: Alice B. Fogel (-2014) | Walter E. Butts (2013-2009) | Patricia Fargnoli (2009-2006) | Cynthia Huntington (2004-2005) | Marie Harris (2004-1999) | Donald Hall (1999-1995) | Jane Kenyon (1999-1995) | Maxine Kumin (1994-1989) | Donald Hall (1989-1984) | Richard Eberhart (1984-1979; former Poetry Consultant, 1959-1961) | Eleanor Vinton (1978-1972) | Paul Scott Mowrer (1971-1968)
New Mexico: position does not exist || Albuquerque: Manuel Gonzales (2018-2016) | Jessica Helen Lopez (2016-2014) | Hakim Bellamy (2014-2012) || Santa Fe: Jon Davis (2014-2012) | Joan Logghe (2012-2010) | Valerie Martinez (2010-2008) | Arthur Sze (2007-2005)
New York: Yusef Komunyakaa (-2016) | Marie Howe (2012-2014) | Jean Valentine (2008-2010) | Billy Collins (2004-2006; former Poet Laureate Consultant, 2001-2003) | John Ashbery (2001-2003) | Sharon Olds (1998-2000) | Jane Cooper (1995-1997) | Richard Howard (1993-1995) | Audre Lorde (1991-1993) | Robert Creeley (1989-1991) | Stanley Kunitz (1987-1989; former Poet Laureate Consultant, 2000-2001) || Brooklyn: Tina Chang (-2010) | Ken Siegelman (2010-2002) || Suffolk County: Gladys Henderson (-2016)
North Carolina: Shelby Stephenson (-2015) | Valerie Macon (2014-2014) | Joseph Bathanti (2014-2012) | Cathy Smith Bowers (2012-2010) | Kathryn Stripling Byer (2009-2005) | Fred Chappell (2002-1997) | Sam Ragan (1996-1982) | James Larkin Pearson (1981-1953) | Arthur Abernethy (1953-1948)
Oklahoma: Benjamin Myers (2015) | Nathan Brown (2014-2013) Eddie Wilcoxen (2012-2011) | Jim Barnes (2010-2009) | N. Scott Momaday (2009-2007) | Francine Ringold (2007-2003) | Carl Sennhenn (2003-2001) | Joe Kreger (2001-1998) | Betty Shipley (1998-1997) | Carol Hamilton (1997-1995) | Maggie Culver Fry (1997-1995) | Leslie A. McRill (1977-1970) | Rudolph N. Hill (1970-1966) | Delbert Davis (1966-1963) | Bess Truitt (1946-1945) | Anne Ruth Semple (1945-1944) | Della I. Young (1944-1943) | Jennie Harris Oliver (1943-1940) | Paul Kroeger (1940-1931) | Violet McDougal (1930-1923)
Oregon: Peter Sears (-2014) | Paulann Petersen (2014-2010) | Lawson Fusao Inada (2010-2006) | William Stafford (1990-1975) | Ethel Romig Fuller (1965-1957) | Ben Hur Lampman (1954-1951) | Edwin Markham (1931-1923)
South Carolina: Marjory Heath Wentworth (-2016) | Bennie Lee Sinclair (2000-1986) | Grace Freeman (1986-1985) | Ennis Rees (1985-1984) | Helen Von Kolnitz Hyer (1983-1974) | Archibald Rutledge (1974-1934)
Texas: Laurie Ann Guerrero (2016; also poet laureate of San Antonio, 2014-2016) | Carmen Tafolla (2015; former poet laureate of San Antonio, 2012) | Dean Young (2014) | Rosemary Catacalos (2013) | Jan Seale (2012) | David M. Parsons (2011) | Karla K. Morton (2010) | Paul Ruffin (2009) | Larry D. Thomas (2008) | Steven Fromholz (2007) | Red Steagall (2006) | Alan Birkelbach (2005) | Cleatus Rattan (2004) | Jack Myers (2003) | Walter McDonald (2001) | James Hoggard (2000) | Mildred Baass (1995-1993) | Vassar Miller (1989-1988) | Ruth E. Reuther (1988-1987) | William D. Barney (1983-1982) | Weems S. Dykes (1981-1980) | Dorothy B. Elfstroman (1980-1979) | Patsy Stodghill (1979-1978) | Ruth Carruth (1978-1977) | Florice Stripling Jeffers (1977-1976) | Ethel Osborn Hill (1976-1975) | Lila Todd O’Neil (1975-1974) | Violette Newton (1974-1973) | Mrs. Clark Gresham (1973-1972) | Terry Fontenot (1972-1971) | Robby K. Mitchell (1971-1970) | Anne B. Marely (1970-1969) | Kathryn Henry Harris (1968) | William E. Bard (1967) | Bessie Mass Rowe (1966) | Jenny Lind Porter (1965-1964) | Gwendolyn Bennett Pappas (1963) | Marvin Davis Winsett (1962) | Lorena Simon (1961) | J.V. Chandler (1961-1959) | Margaret Royalty (1959-1957) | Pierre Bernard Hill (1957-1955) | Mildred Lindsey Raiborn (1955-1953) | Arthur M. Sampley (1953-1951) | Carlos Ashley (1951-1949) | Aline B. Carter (1949-1947) | David Riley Russell (1947-1945) | Dollilee Davis Smith (1945-1943) | Nancy Richey Ranson (1943-1941) | Lexie Dean Robertson (1941-1939) | Grace Noll Crowell (1939-1936) | Aline T. Michaelis (1936-1934) | Judd Mortimer Lewis (1934-1932)
Vermont: Chard DeNiord (-2015) | Sydney Lea (2015-2011) | Ruth Stone (2011-2007) | Grace Paley (2007-2003) | Ellen Bryant Voight (2002-1999) | Louise Gluck (1998-1994; former Poet Laureate Consultant, 2003-2004) | Galway Kinnell (1993-1989) | Robert Frost (1963-1961)
Virginia: Tim Seibles (-2016) | Ron Smith (2016-2014) | Sofia Starnes (2014-2012) | Kelly Cherry (2012-2010) | Claudia Emerson (2010-2008) | Carolyn Kriter-Foronda (2008-2006) | Rita Dove (2006-2004; former Poet Laureate Consultant, 1995-1993); and Special Bicentennial Consultant, 2000-1999) | George Garrett (2004-2002) | Grace Simpson (2002-2000) | Joseph Awad (2000-1998) | Margaret Ward Morland (1998-1996) | Kathryn Forrester Thro (1996-1994) | Ruby Altizer Roberts (1992) | Guy Carleton Drewry (1991-1970) | Ruby Altizer Roberts (1950) | Leigh Buckner Hanes (1949) | Thomas Lomax Hunter (1948) Charles Day (1942) | Carter Warner Wormeley (1938-1936)
West Virginia: Marc Harshman (-2012) | Irene McKinney (2012-1994) | Louise McNeill Pease (1993-1979) | Roy Lee Harmon (1979-1961) | Vera Andrews Harvey (1961-1960) | Roy Lee Harmon (1960-1946) | James Lowell McPherson (1946-1943) | Roy Lee Harmon (1943-1937) | Karl Myers (1937-1927)
Wyoming: Eugene M. Gagliano (-2016) | A. Rose Hill (2016-2015) | Echo Roy Klaproth (2015-2013) | Patricia Frolander (2013-2011) | David Romtvedt (2011-2004) | Robert Roripaugh (2003-1995) | Charles L. Levendosky (1995-1988) | Peggy Simson Curry (1987-1981)