The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate—serves as the official poet of the United States. During their term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The position was modeled on the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. Begun in 1937, and formerly known as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the present title was devised and authorized by an Act of Congress in 1985. The Poet Laureate's office is administered by the Center for the Book. For children's poets, the Poetry Foundation awards the Young People's Poet Laureate.
The incumbent Poet Laureate (since 2019) is Joy Harjo.
The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry is appointed annually by the Librarian of the United States Congress and serves from October to May. In making the appointment, the Librarian consults with current and former laureates and other distinguished personalities in the field.
Currently, the laureate receives a $35,000 annual stipend, endowed by a gift from Archer M. Huntington. On October 3, 1985, the U.S. Congress passed legislation authored by Senator Spark M. Matsunaga of Hawaii changing the title of the position to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.The Library minimizes assigned duties, to allow incumbents to pursue their own projects while at the Library. The laureate presents an annual lecture and reading of his or her poetry and usually introduces poets at the Library's poetry series, the oldest in the Washington area and among the oldest in the United States. This annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia, and occasional dramatic performances began in the 1940s. Collectively the laureates have brought more than 2,000 poets and authors to the Library to read for the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature.
Each consultant has brought a different emphasis to the position. Maxine Kumin started a popular series of poetry workshops for women at the Library of Congress. Gwendolyn Brooks met with elementary school students to encourage them to write poetry. Joseph Brodsky initiated the idea of providing poetry in airports, supermarkets, and hotel rooms. Rita Dove, considered the first activist poet laureate, brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists, championed children's poetry and jazz with poetry events and read at the White House during Bill Clinton's first state dinner. Robert Hass organized a watershed conference that brought together popular novelists, poets, and storytellers to talk about writing, nature, and community, and co-founded the River of Words K–12 international children's poetry and art contest.Robert Pinsky initiated the Favorite Poem Project. Billy Collins's "Poetry 180" project distributed a poem to all high schools for every day of the school year. These poems were also collected and published in two anthologies.
Each year links to its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article:
Each year links to its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article:
1999–2000 (for Library of Congress' 200th Anniversary) Rita Dove, Louise Glück, and W. S. Merwin
A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions. Albertino Mussato of Padua and Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) of Arezzo, both now part of Italy, were the first to be crowned poets laureate after the classical age, respectively in 1315 and 1342. In Britain, the term dates from the appointment of Bernard André by Henry VII of England. The royal office of Poet Laureate in England dates from the appointment of John Dryden in 1668.
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was an American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950, for Annie Allen, making her the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize.
Karl Jay Shapiro was an American poet. He was appointed the fifth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1946.
Archibald MacLeish was an American poet and writer who was associated with the modernist school of poetry. MacLeish studied English at Yale University and law at Harvard University. He enlisted in and saw action during the First World War and lived in Paris in the 1920s. On returning to the United States, he contributed to Henry Luce's magazine Fortune from 1929 to 1938. For five years MacLeish was the ninth Librarian of Congress, a post he accepted at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. From 1949 to 1962, he was Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. He was awarded three Pulitzer Prizes for his work.
The Center for the Book was founded in 1977 by Daniel J. Boorstin, the Librarian of Congress, in order to use the Library of Congress to promote literacy, libraries, and reading in general, as well as an understanding of the history and heritage of American literature. The Center for the Book is mainly supported by tax-deductible donations. In 1984, the Center began creating affiliated State Centers for the Book. Today, the Center for the Book has an affiliate Center in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
William James Collins is an American poet, appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York. Collins was recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004 through 2006. In 2016, Collins was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. As of 2020, he is a teacher in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton.
Rita Frances Dove is an American poet and essayist. From 1993 to 1995, she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She is the first African American to have been appointed since the position was created by an act of Congress in 1986 from the previous "consultant in poetry" position (1937–86). Dove also received an appointment as "special consultant in poetry" for the Library of Congress's bicentennial year from 1999 to 2000. Dove is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1987, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006.
Charles Simic is a Serbian American poet and former co-poetry editor of the Paris Review. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 for The World Doesn't End, and was a finalist of the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for Selected Poems, 1963-1983 and in 1987 for Unending Blues. He was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2007.
Anselm Paul Alexis Hollo was a Finnish poet and translator. He lived in the United States from 1967 until his death in January 2013.
William Morris Meredith Jr. was an American poet and educator. He was Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1978 to 1980.
The Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate is the national poet laureate of Canada. The most recent poet laureate was Georgette LeBlanc, who served from 2018 to 2019.
Tracy K. Smith is an American poet and educator. She served as the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States from 2017 to 2019. She has published four collections of poetry, winning the Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 volume Life on Mars Her memoir, Ordinary Light, was published in 2015.
Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, playwright, and author. She is the incumbent United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor. She is also only the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to serve three terms. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv. She is an important figure in the second wave of the literary Native American Renaissance of the late 20th century. She studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts, completed her undergraduate degree at University of New Mexico in 1976, and earned an MFA at the University of Iowa in its creative writing program.
National Poetry Month, a celebration of poetry which takes place each April, was introduced in 1996 and is organized by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. The Academy of American Poets' website Poets.org serves as a hub for information about local poetry events during the month. The organization also provides free educational resources to teachers for classroom celebrations and activities, and commissions an annual festival poster. Since 1998, National Poetry Month has also been celebrated each April in Canada.
Natasha Trethewey is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and again in 2013. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi.
The New Zealand Poet Laureate is a poet appointed by the National Library of New Zealand to represent New Zealand's community of poets, to promote and advocate for poetry, and to produce a number of published works during their two-year tenure as laureate.
Rita Dove: An American Poet is a 2014 documentary film produced, directed and edited by Eduardo Montes-Bradley. It is a biographical sketch of U.S. Poet Laureate and National Medal of Arts winner Rita Dove.
The National Youth Poet Laureate is a title held in the United States by a young person who demonstrates skill in the arts, particularly poetry and/or spoken word, is a strong leader, is committed to social justice, and is active in civic discourse and advocacy. It is a title awarded annually to one winner among five finalists, most of whom have been chosen as the Poet Laureate for their city or region.