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United States Poet Laureate

By Gary R. Hess. Category: Poetry

The Poet Laureate of the United States is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The US Poet Laureate serves only one year and is generally a position used to help spread the word of poetry through appearances, interviews, and speeches at the Library of Congress. However, the position is also used to promote their own ideas, worries, and political agenda.

Before 1985, this position was called the "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress." After a vote by Congress, the name was changed to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.

Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry List & Timeline

  1. Joseph Auslander 1937-1941. His wife Audrey Wurdemann was a Pulitzer Prizer winner in poetry.
  2. Allen Tate 1943-1944. His most famous poem "Ode to the Confederate Dead" was published in his first book of poetry in 1928.
  3. Robert Penn Warren 1944-1955. He won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1958 and 1979. He also won a Pulitzer in 1947 for his novel. He is the only person to have won both a Pulitzer in Poetry and Novel.
  4. Louise Bogan 1945-1947. Much of her poetry was published before she became Poet Laureate. She was the poetry editor for The New Yorker for much of her career.
  5. Karl Shapiro 1946-1947. He published many volumes of poetry throughout his life. His last volume, Coda: Last Poems, was published posthumously.
  6. Robert Lowell 1947-1948. He was the founder of the confessional poetry movement. He won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1947 and 1974.
  7. Léonie Adams 1948-1949. She is known for her rich descriptions and almost devotional lyricism.
  8. Elizabeth Bishop 1949-1950. Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1956. She is considered as one of the top poets of the 1900s.
  9. Conrad Aiken 1950-1952. He was the first Georgia-born person to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1930 for his Selected Poems.
  10. William Carlos Williams 1952. He was closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a doctor.
  11. Randall Jarrell 1956-1958. His best work is said to have been published after his reign. The Lost World is one of those.
  12. Robert Frost 1958-1959. Known for his realism based on rural life and his command of American colloquial speech.
  13. Richard Eberhart 1959-1961. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Selected Poems: 1930-1965.
  14. Louis Untermeyer 1961-1963. Known for hosting the What's My Line? game show and publishing over 100 books.
  15. Howard Nemerov 1963-1964. He is known for his exclusive use of fixed forms and meters and serving as Poet Laureate twice.
  16. Reed Whittemore 1964-1965. Known for his wry and deflating humor.
  17. Stephen Spender 1965-1966. Known for focusing on social injustices and the class struggle.
  18. James Dickey 1966-1968. He read "The Strength of Fields" at President Jimmy Carter's inauguration in 1977.
  19. William Jay Smith 1968-1970. Known for his use of far-reaching themes and variety of styles on everyday activities.
  20. William Stafford 1970-1971. His first poetry wasn't published until he was 48-years-old.
  21. Josephine Jacobsen 1971-1973. She's often remembered for her many poems written about baseball and the Baltimore Orioles.
  22. Daniel Hoffman 1973-1974. His work was praised in later life to be as good as it was when he was younger. A true lifetime achiever in poetry.
  23. Stanley Kunitz 1974-1976. His book Selected Poems: 1928-1958 won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry after he had a hard time finding a publisher for it.
  24. Robert Hayden 1976-1978. The first black Poet Laureate of the United States.
  25. William Meredith 1978-1980. Won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Partial Accounts: New and Selected Poems in 1988.
  26. Maxine Kumin 1981-1982. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Up Country in 1972.
  27. Anthony Hecht 1982-1984. Much of his work surrounds WWII and the Holocaust.
  28. Robert Fitzgerald 1984-1985. He is mainly known as being one of the most prolific poetry translators.
  29. Reed Whittemore 1984-1985 (intern appointment). Also served in 1964-1965.
  30. Gwendolyn Brooks 1985-1986. She published her first poem at age 13 in a Children's magazine. By the time she was 16, she had already published 75 poems.
  31. Robert Penn Warren 1986–1987. Also served from 1944-1955.
  32. Richard Wilbur 1987–1988. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1957 and 1989.
  33. Howard Nemerov 1988–1990. Also served from 1963-1964.
  34. Mark Strand 1990–1991. He is known for his nostalgiac in tone and using the fields, boats, and pines from his childhood home on Prince Edward Island in his poetry.
  35. Joseph Brodsky 1991–1992. He was expelled from the USSR in 1972. In 1987, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity".
  36. Mona Van Duyn 1992–1993. She is known for winning every U.S. prize in poetry including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1991 for Near Changes (1990).
  37. Rita Dove 1993–1995. She was the first Black-American to be appointed the United States Poet Laureate after its name change in 1986.
  38. Robert Hass 1995–1997. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Time and Materials.
  39. Robert Pinsky 1997–2000. Known for publishing 19 books (mostly of his own poetry) and translating works of Czesław Miłosz and Dante Alighieri.
  40. Stanley Kunitz 2000–2001. Served also in 1974-1976.
  41. Billy Collins 2001–2003. His tenure is most remembered for Collins reading his poem titled The Names in front of a special joint session of the U.S. Congress after the attacks on 9/11.
  42. Louise Glück 2003–2004. She also served as Special Bicentennial Consultant in 2000. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993 for her The Wild Iris.
  43. Ted Kooser 2004–2005. Won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book "Delights and Shadows" (2004) in 2005.
  44. Donald Hall 2006-2007. In 2010, he was given the National Medal of Arts.
  45. Charles Simic 2007-2008. He is known for his terse, imagistic poems.
  46. Kay Ryan 2008-2010. She is known for short poetry about unusual subjects with great imagination and emotion.
  47. W.S. Merwin 2010-2011. He is best known for his poetry about the Vietnam War.
  48. Philip Levine 2011-. Won the Pulitzer Prize for his poem The Simple Truth. He is best known for his writings about the working-class in Detroit.