What do poetry and government information have in common?
Legislation! It's what establishes the position of Poet Laureate!
Happy National Poetry Month!
The national poet laureate was established initially in 1937, but the position was called the "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress". Joseph Auslander was the first poet to hold this position, 1937-1941.
However with congressional bill 99 S. 1264, which became Public Law. 99–194, title VI, § 601, Dec. 20, 1985, or 99 Stat. 1347, the title of the position was changed to "Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry". The current US Poet Laureate is Chris Wright. The Stanford Library has a collection of his works.
Forty-five States have also passed bills or resolutions establishing a State Poet Laureate.
California had an unofficial poet laureate from 1915-2000. On January 18, 2001, Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) introduced 2001-2002 AB 113 to officially establish this position in the state. Governor Gray Davis signed the bill into law on August 30, 2001, California Government Code, Title 2, Division 1, Chapter 9.5.
Our current State Poet Laureate is Juan Felipe Herrera; his term started March 26, 2012. You can check out one of his many books from the Library. Ina Donna Coolbrith, a librarian and head of the Oakland Free Library as well as a poet, was the first unofficial poet laureate; her term lasted from 1915-1928. The Library also has a number of books by and about her as well.
Even city councils and county boards of supervisors appoint their own local poets laureate. They Bay Area is home to many:
- Albany: Toby Bielawski
- Alameda: Julia Park Tracey
- Cupertino: Jennifer Swanton Brown
- Livermore: Kevin Gunn
- Los Gatos: Erica Goss
- Marin County: Joe Zaccardi
- Oakland, Youth Poet Laureate: Sophie Elkin
- San Francsico: Alejandro Murguia
- San Mateo County: Caroline Goodwin
- Santa Clara County: David Perez
- Santa Cruz County: Ellen Bass
California Association of Teachers of English. California Authors: Ina Coolbrith.
Library of Congress, Current State Poets Laureate, California.
Library of Congress, United States Poets Laureate: A Guide to Online Resources - Frequently Asked Questions.
Schuessler, Jennifer. (July 27, 2014). "Is Poetry Dead? Not if 45 Official Laureates are any indication!" New York Times.