Joy Harjo is the next poet laureate of the United States. Read Harjo's Q&A on her laureateship. The Librarian of Congress appoints the poet laureate of the United States on a yearly basis. She or he is responsible for promoting poetry and serving as an advocate for the arts.
The position was created in 1943 by President Roosevelt to replace the former office of Poet Laureate of America. The first poet laureate was Robert Frost, who held the post from 1933 until his death in 1963. Since then, several others have held the title at different times. The current poet laureate is Joy Harjo, who has the honor of being the first Native American to hold the post.
Harjo was born in New Mexico in 1955. She grew up in Albuquerque and Los Angeles and received her education from various institutions including UCLA, where she earned a B.A. in English in 1978, and the University of Arizona, where she earned an M.F.A. in creative writing in 1992. In 2001, Harjo became the first person from her country of origin to win the National Book Award when she took home the prize for her collection, I'll Wear My Walking Stick Today.
On June 19, 2019, Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, selected Joy Harjo as the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Harjo was reappointed to a second term that ends on April 30, 2020, and a third term that ends on November 19, 2020. She will continue to work from her office at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Harjo is an enrolled member of the Suquamish Tribe and a former president of the National Native American Book Award Foundation. Her poetry has been published in journals including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harvard Review, and she has written several books of poems for children. In addition to serving as Poet Laureate, Harjo will also teach a course at UCSC titled "Native Americans in the United States."
Hayden announced Harjo's selection during a ceremony at the Library of Congress. Said Hayden: "Joy Harjo is one of our greatest poets and educators today. I am so pleased that she will be helping us celebrate the power of words and imagination through her work with the Library of Congress. As a tribal citizen and scholar, she understands the importance of libraries and their role in indigenous communities."
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 consultee is required by law to give a speech during his or her year in office.
The first Poet Laureate was Robert Gould Shaw who served in the position from 1913 to 1918. He was selected by President Woodrow Wilson. The next person appointed to the post was John Masefield who served from 1919 to 1936. He was selected by President Calvin Coolidge. Since then, every president has had a poet appointed as their Laureate. The most recent appointment was made in 2009 when Barack Obama named Dr. Maya Angelou his Laureate. She will serve a three-year term and can be re-appointed once more.
So yes, the President does pick the poet laureate.
There are just three "essential" conditions for serving as Poet Laureate of the United States, according to the Library of Congress: 1 do a reading at the beginning of their time as poet laureate. 2 Assist in the selection and presentation of the two yearly recipients of the Witter Bynner Fellowship, a literary award. 3 Submit a poem for inclusion in the annual collection published by Scribner.
In addition to these conditions, several others have been suggested over the years, most notably that the person should be a national or international figure who is distinguished as a poet, or should be willing to accept this distinction. The current president names the inaugural poet each year during his or her term.
The office was created in 1790 when Alexander Pope was appointed poet laureat. He held this position for nine months until his death in April 1744. After Pope's death, no new poet laureate has been appointed since then until now.
A list of people who have served as US poet laureate can be found at http://www.poetslaureate.com/us-poets-laureate/. Currently, Robert Pinsky is the US poet laureate. He was appointed in 2003 and replaced Rita Dove who had previously held the post from 1997 to 2002.
As of 2017, 46 states and the District of Columbia have poet laureates, with a few vacancies. The duration of the terms varies per state. Most jurisdictions designate a poet laureate for a one- or two-year term, ranging from a few months to several years, while other states appoint a poet for life. Some states require that they be an American citizen, while others allow non-citizens to hold the position.
States that have a poet laureate: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
In Canada, each province has a poet laureate who is appointed by their governor. They are given $150,000 annually to promote poetry across Canada. Each year, up to five new people can be appointed to multiple-year terms. Previous laureates include Karen Connolly (Ontario), Earle Birney (Newfoundland and Labrador), George Elliott Clarke (Alberta), Elizabeth McCauley (Saskatchewan), Mary Margaret McMahon (Nova Scotia), John Kinsella (British Columbia).
The Librarian of Congress selects a poet for the position of Poet Laureate, certifies that the poet is willing and competent to serve, and then appoints the poet to the office. The appointment lasts for one year and can be renewed once. There has never been more than one Poet Laureate at a time.
The role of the Poet Laureate is to "encourage appreciation of the language and the arts by individuals and groups throughout the world." They also are expected to promote poetry by serving as an ambassador for its enjoyment.
John Milton was appointed Poet Laureate in 1631. He had previously served as secretary for English affairs for the European Parliament.
Jorie Graham was appointed in 1992 and subsequently died in 2016 at the age of 70. She was known for her collections of poems which include Children's Music, Garden Music, and New York City Songs.
Most states designate a poet laureate for a one- or two-year term, which can range from a few months to several years, while some appoint a poet for life. Previously, comparable positions existed in two states: New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but they were abolished in 2003. Now, each state selects its own poets.
States tend to have an official poet because they believe that having a poet as their ambassador of poetry will help promote the work of poets and poetry across the country. Some states choose their poets based on national awards won by those candidates (such as California's post being awarded to Maya Angelou in 1990), while others may select anyone who meets other qualifications such as being a resident of the state. The salary of a poet laureate varies depending on the state, but it usually isn't much more than that of other government officials.
All states except Nebraska allow former poets to seek another office under certain circumstances. If a state poet dies while in office, then another poet can be appointed interim poet laureate until a permanent replacement is found. If the position becomes vacant for any reason other than death or resignation, then the governor can make an appointment. However, the appointed poet would not become official until after the next election when new legislation is passed designating the person as the state's poet.
It is common for states to rename existing offices or create new ones to keep with the theme of their annual conferences.