Dedicated to the American and English Poet Laureate
This section is provides information regarding the history of the Poet Laureate and details of the men and women designated English Poet Laureate and American Poet Laureate.
The Poet Laureate
What does "Laureate" mean?
The word 'laureate' means "crowned with laurel" deriving from the Latin word laureatus. The term dates back to Ancient Rome where traditionally a successful person was crowned with a wreath of laurel leaves.
The History of the English tradition of the Poet Laureate
The history of the English poet laureate dates back to the the 12th century and the English Royal House of Plantagenet. Poets were then known as 'versifiers' and were favoured by the reigning monarchs and awarded fees and pensions. The patronage of the English Royal houses continued over the centuries by the Tudors and Stuarts. The position of Poet Laureate was informally created by Charles I for Ben Jonson in 1617, however, the title did not become an official royal office until it was conferred by letters patent on John Dryden in 1670. The position became the Poet Laureate of Great Britain in 1707, when The Act of Union created "Great Britain" as the political name of England, Scotland, and Wales.
The Responsibilities of the English Poet Laureate
The English Poet Laureate is the realm's official poet.
The Poet Laureate is a member of the royal household
The Poet Laureate is charged with writing verses for court and national occasions such as the monarch's birthday, royal births and marriages, coronations and military victories
The Poet Laureate was originally awarded the position for life, however, from 1999 the post is limited to 10 years
The Poet Laureate is chosen by the British reigning monarch from a list of nominees that the Prime Minister compiles after the death of a poet laureate
It is the Lord Chamberlain who appoints the poet laureate by issuing a warrant to the laureate-elect
The life appointment is always announced in the London Gazette
The designated 'Poet Laureate' of the English Plantagenet Period
Gulielmus Peregrinus assigned by Richard Coeur de Lion 'Master Henry' assigned by Henry III Robert Whittington serving Richard II Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) serving Edward III John Kay in the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483)
The designated 'Poet Laureate' of the English Tudor Period
Bernard Andre of Toulouse (1450-1522) under Henry VII John Skelton (1460-1529) was the 'Poet Laureate' under Henry VIII Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) was the 'Poet Laureate' under Elizabeth I
The designated 'Poet Laureate' of the English Stuart Period
Samuel Daniel was the 'Poet Laureate' under James I Ben Jonson was the Poet Laureate under Charles I Sir William Davenant (a godson of William Shakespeare) was the Poet Laureate under Charles I & Charles II
The history of the American Poet Laureate really started from 1937 to 1985 when the Librarian of Congress had the authority to appoint a "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress." The name of the post was changed by an act of Congress in 1985 to Poet Laureate, mirroring the title from the poets laureate of Britain.
The Responsibilities of the American Poet Laureate
The Poet Laureate is officially the country's literary advocate.
The main responsibility of the Poet Laureate is to strive to raise the nation's appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry
The Poet Laureate is not a political appointee
Specific duties are minimized so that appointees have the greatest freedom to develop their own projects
The Poet Laureate is appointed by the Librarian of Congress, who consults with others, such as the current Poet Laureate, former laureates and poetry critics, before making the selection
The Poet Laureate is given an annual payment ($35,000 in 2003) which is funded by a gift from Archer M. Huntington
The Poet Laureate is invited to give an annual lecture and reading of their own poetry
The Poet Laureate is awarded the position for one year, serves from October to May, and is eligible for reappointment
The the Consultants in Poetry to the Library of Congress 1937 - 85
Joseph Auslander (1937-1941) Allen Tate(1943-1944) Robert Penn Warren (1944-1945) Louise Bogan (1945-1946) Karl Shapiro (1946-1947) Robert Lowell (1947-1948) Leonie Adams (1948-1949) Elizabeth Bishop (1949-1950) Conrad Aiken (1950-1952) William Carlos Williams (appointed 1952 but did not serve) Randall Jarrell (1956-1958) Robert Frost (1958-1959) Richard Eberhart (1959-1961) Louis Untermeyer (1961-1963) Howard Nemerov (1963-1964) Reed Whittemore (1964-1965) Stephen Spender (1965-1966) James Dickey (1966-1968) William Jay Smith (1968-1970) William Stafford (1970-1971) Josephine Jacobsen (1971-1973) Daniel Hoffman (1973-1974) Stanley Kunitz (1974-1976) Robert Hayden (1976-1978) William Meredith (1978-1980) Maxine Kumin (1981-1982) Anthony Hecht (1982-1984) Robert Fitzgerald (1984-1985) Gwendolyn Brooks (1985-1986)
List of American Poet Laureates from 1986
Robert Penn Warren (1986-1987) Richard Wilbur (1987-1988) Howard Nemerov (1988-1990) Mark Strand (1990-1991) Joseph Brodsky (1991-1992) Mona Van Duyn (1992-1993) Rita Dove (1993-1995) Robert Hass (1995-1997) Robert Pinsky (1997-2000) Stanley Kunitz (2000-2001) Billy Collins (2001-2003) Louise Gluck (2003- )