Poet Laureate’s Duties and History

I have always wondered what exactly a poet laureate’s duties are.

As for the United States, they are given much latitude. They give a reading to open the Library of Congress’s annual literary series, and close with a lecture. They are appointed from September of one year to May of the next. Poet laureates write occasional poetry. This position was started in 1936 as an endowment for “maintenance of a chair of Poetry of the English language in the Library of Congress.”

Beyond that they are given free reign to make it their own. Joseph Brodsky (he had an interesting life, (exiled from his native Russia), was the first to make a program that reached a national scale.

The current United States poet laureate is Joy Harjo, the first Native American to fill this role.

Other nations and localities have their own poet laureates. The Oregon poet laureate, appointed by Gov. Kate Brown, is Kim Stafford. His occasional poetry centers on the corona virus.

The term laurel was a wreath of honor given to ancient Greek poets or heroes. I would love to see poetry take on more importance and include more conservative voices.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ones of my favorite poets, was the celebrity of his time. “A Psalm of Life” speaks to me when I need encouragement to carry on.


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