Celebrate the US Poet Laureate! - National Council of Teachers of English
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Celebrate the US Poet Laureate!

On this day in 1985, the United States Congress officially adopted the position of Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. From 1938 to 1986, the United States had “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress,” and from 1986 forward the position was re-named the now more familiar “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry,” or Poet Laureate. The honored poet must present one major work of poetry and read poems at national ceremonies. Learn more about the projects of the Poet Laureates.

According to the Library of Congress, the Poet Laureate serves as “nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.” Past Consultants in Poetry or Poets Laureate have included Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, and Billy Collins. The current Poet Laureate is Joy Harjo. View these Research Guides to learn more about all of the Poet Laureates.

The highest poetry office in the country belongs—both literally and symbolically—to the U.S. Poet Laureate. Headquartered at the Library’s Poetry Office in the attic of the Thomas Jefferson Building, the poet laureateship is the primary national position dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation of poetry among the American public. This post describes “How is the Poet Laureate Selected?” and this “What Do Poets Laureate Do?

Check out these NCTE and ReadWriteThink resources on a few Poet Laureates:

How do you engage with the Poet Laureates?

Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!

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