I’m a little behind in sharing my well wishes for an extraordinary and exciting poetry month. There are many events and programs planned throughout the month of April which will highlight the gift of poetry and its importance to humanity. I, too, am planning to shine the light on poetry through my weekly blog posts. In my posts, I’ll focus on the poet laureate position, presidential inauguration poems, poems as songs, and poetry giants. So without further ado, my first nod to National Poetry Month…
When I first heard the title Poet Laureate I was intrigued. I had just learned that Gwendolyn Brooks, a Black woman, like me, had been appointed poet laureate for the United States. I was so proud but also ignorant. What the heck is a poet laureate? I wondered. What do they do? I don’t remember what life event was going on at the time that prevented me from researching answers to my questions, but here it is years later and I now have the answers.
First, poet laureate is an appointed position. The Librarian of Congress selects a status poet to the position. A status poet is one who has published a collection(s) of poems, has achieved some level of recognition for their work, has probably won awards for their writings, and is involved in promoting the art of poetry, and more.
Second, the position’s length of term is one year but some terms have been extended at the pleasure of the librarian such as with the current poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey. While in the position, the poet laureate is responsible for pushing the agenda of poetry. It is up to the poet laureate to determine how this is achieved but most conduct readings, lecture, host literary events, conduct radio and TV interviews and programs, compose poems for the nation, etc.
Third, there is not only a poet laureate for the United States but also for each state. Well, for many of the states; a few states do not have a poet laureate position. Responsibilities and requirements at the state level may differ from the national role.
Trethewey, our current United States Poet Laureate claims Mississippi as her home state. She is the author of four books, one of which Native Guard won the Pulitzer Prize. Her work tends to focus on history, tragedy and mixed race issues; all subjects that have touched and therefore shaped her life. Below is a list of her other titles:
This April during National Poetry Month, I encourage you to take some time to check out one of her books. Her words will move you beyond belief.
Until next week, happy reading and writing of poetry.
(Photo copyright Jon Rou)