Poet Laureate

Poet Laureate

Can you name the current poet laureate of the United States? If you can, you have my admiration. I had to look it up.

Do you know what the poet laureate does? The American poet laureate acts as the chair of poetry for the Library of Congress. The position was established in 1936 by an endowment from the author and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington, and the title of poet laureate was created in 1985. (Before that, the position was known as the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress.) The poet laureate is appointed by the Librarian of Congress and serves from September to May. Some serve more than one term.


Main reading room, Library of Congress

The duty of the poet laureate is to promote poetry in the United States. He is expected to read from his work at the Library of Congress poetry series. She may travel the country making appearances to lecture about or otherwise promote poetry, or organize festivals or conduct special projects. She is also expected to reserve time to continue writing poetry.

The past poets who have been honored with this position are an impressive crowd. You’ll find names you recognize, even if you are not particularly a poetry enthusiast. At least one (Robert Pinsky) made a guest appearance on The Simpsons.

I copied these lists of Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate from Encyclopaedia Britannica online. Each name links to a biography of the poet.

The Consultants in Poetry:

  1. Joseph Auslander


    William Carlos Williams

  2. Allen Tate
  3. Robert Penn Warren
  4. Louise Bogan
  5. Karl Shapiro
  6. Robert Lowell, Jr.
  7. Léonie Adams
  8. Elizabeth Bishop
  9. Conrad Aiken
  10. William Carlos Williams
  11. Randall Jarrell
  12. Robert Frost
  13. Richard Eberhart
  14. Louis Untermeyer
  15. Howard Nemerov
  16. Reed Whittemore
  17. Stephen Spender
  18. James Dickey
  19. William Jay Smith
  20. William Stafford
  21. Josephine Jacobsen
  22. Daniel Hoffman


    Robert Frost

  23. Stanley Kunitz
  24. Robert Hayden
  25. William Meredith
  26. Maxine Kumin
  27. Anthony Hecht
  28. Robert Fitzgerald
  29. Reed Whittemore
  30. Gwendolyn Brooks

The Poets Laureate:

  1. Robert Penn Warren
  2. Richard Wilbur
  3. Howard Nemerov
  4. Mark Strand
  5. Joseph Brodsky
  6. Mona Van Duyn
  7. Rita Dove
  8. Robert Hass
  9. Robert Pinsky


    Robert Pinsky; photo by Jared C. Benedict

  10. Stanley Kunitz
  11. Billy Collins
  12. Louise Glück
  13. Ted Kooser
  14. Donald Hall
  15. Charles Simic
  16. Kay Ryan
  17. W.S. Merwin
  18. Philip Levine
  19. Natasha Trethewey
  20. Charles Wright
  21. Juan Felipe Herrera
  22. Tracy K. Smith

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

3 responses »

  1. The only one I could come up with was Maya Angelou, who I now see is not even on the list! I looked up her bio and saw that she read a poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, so maybe that is where I got that idea.
    I think I’ve only heard of 3 of those listed. Obviously there is a hole in my education! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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