It's a historic ritual that began in England in 1617, when King James granted Ben Jonson a pension and a canary wine allowance. Many countries now have poet laureates, including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, North Korea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Iran.
The position is designed to bring recognition and honor to contemporary poets who are not already famous. They are selected by their peers and usually receive a fee for their work. Some countries with poet laureates include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States.
Poet Laureate of Utah: Robert Hass (1950- )
He was appointed on January 3, 2009, and will serve for up to two years. He is the first American to hold the post since 1973 when John Milton was elected but died before taking office. Before that there had been no Poet Laureate since 1937 when Louis Zukovsky became Laureate Pro Tem until that time's only other appointment was in 1770 when Thomas Gray served one month before he went abroad so as not to offend the government of Britain which was then fighting against America in a war over ownership of Canada.
In the 17th century, the title of poet laureate was first bestowed in England for poetic talent. The office is no longer associated with specific literary tasks, although the holder is still a salaried member of the British royal household. He or she is selected by the monarch and serves for an annual term.
The post of poet laureate has been held by several notable people including Robert Browning, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Milton, Walter Savage Landor, Thomas Campbell and Alfred Noyes.
England has had many great poets over the years, and while some may be more famous than others, they all deserve to be recognized for their work. The office of poet laureate is now reserved exclusively for bards, but that doesn't mean there aren't any female poets out there. Some of the most renowned writers in English history have been women - Lucy Hutchinson, Ann Bacon, Elizabeth Garrett, Sarah Hopkinson - and they should not be forgotten so soon after they've passed away.
As for today, there are still several poets who are active and popular among readers and critics alike. Some examples are Philip Larkin, Carol Ann Duffy, Ted Hughes, John Cooper Clarke, Michael Symmons Roberts and Rosemary Hill.
With Presidents' Day approaching in the United States, we're thinking a lot about the Poets Laureate, the nation's official poets. The Librarian of Congress appoints the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for a one-year term that runs from October to May. The consultative role includes working with the Librarian to select poems for the annual National Book Award and other honors.
The first American to hold the post was Robert Frost, who served from 1971 to 1982. He was selected by Jimmy Carter during his presidency. Frost was praised for his ability to "translate abstract ideas into language that appeals to the mind and heart of 21st century reader."
Frost was followed by Mark Strand, who served as consultant in poetry to the library from 1983 to 1990 during the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Strand is known for his collection of poems titled The Man Without a Country.
Alison Hawthorne Deming was named poet laureate in 1991 by Bill Clinton and has been serving ever since. She is praised for her knowledge of modern poets such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.
Deming has also written several books of her own. Her most recent book is A Pocket Full of Posies published in 2006. It contains forty-one poems that deal with subjects such as love, loss, and friendship.
Despite previous ideas, Australia does not have an official poet laureate program. Former prisoner Michael Massey Robinson was paid as poet laureate by colonial ruler Lachlan Macquarie in 1818. However, his role was mainly ceremonial and he did not receive any financial compensation.
Since then, several individuals have been proposed as possible laureates but none of these suggestions has been taken up by the government.
In 2012, Australian novelist and playwright Peter Carey was announced as the next poet laureate, but the appointment was later revoked after it was found that he had authored one poem in the language of the indigenous people of Australia - thus failing to meet the requirement for eligibility.
He subsequently published an autobiography in which he criticized the country's lack of commitment to poetry and claimed that it was this reason why he had not been made poet laureate.
Australia does have a federal body called the Prime Minister's Literary Awards, which are awarded annually to authors of books written in English. The awards are administered by the Prime Minister's Office and the winners receive A$15,000 (US$10,700) cash prizes.
However, they are not considered equivalent to the Nobel Prize since they are not given out in fields other than literature.
The next Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges, has been announced. Bridges' professional career was as a physician, and the most of his written work has appeared following his retirement. According to the Irish Times, Rudyard Kipling would have been a far better and more popular candidate, but he lacked the requisite political backing.
Kipling was proposed by Senator Risteárd Cooper of Kerry after the previous laureat, Derek Mahon, failed to receive bipartisan support for his candidacy. The appointment was also supported by President Mary McAleese.
Bridges will take up his post in 2013. He was selected by the government body that chooses the laureate, the Royal Irish Academy. The president of the academy, former U.S. senator George J. Mitchell, said he had "no doubt" that Bridges was "the right person at the right time".
He will begin his duties in April 2013 and be paid €200,000 ($260,000) over three years.
Bridges was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), the son of British parents who were working there as diplomats. The family returned to England when Rudyard was just five years old but they later moved back to India where he grew up in Calcutta. He went to school in France and Germany before studying medicine at St Thomas' Hospital in London. After working for several years as a general practitioner, he retired in 1990 to focus on writing.