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Downtown Library Feature: What’s a Poet Laureate?

Happy National Poetry month! Did you know that the United States has an official poet?

What is the United States Poet Laureate?

The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry — the full title — is the nation’s official advocate for the worth and impact of poetry. The Poet Laureate is appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress and may be elected for a second term. This position was established in 1937 under a different title with slightly different duties, funded through a private endowment from Archer M. Huntington. The current title was adopted in 1986.

What does the Poet Laureate do?

The Library of Congress gives Poets Laureate few specific duties, lending them much freedom to create their own outreach projects. Many people who hold this position do so while still performing their normal duties, such as teaching University courses, writing, raising a family, etc. Some past Laureate projects include:

  • The Favorite Poem Project” by Robert Pinsky (Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000). This project called for Americans to share their favorite poems. The idea was to highlight the importance of poetry in the everyday life of Americans of varying backgrounds. Over 18,000 Americans ages 5 through 97 contributed, and you can watch some of them reading their selections on the project’s website.
  • La Casa de Colores” by Juan Felipe Herrera (Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017). This project includes two features: La Familia, an epic crowdsourced poem to which anyone could contribute for the duration of his Laureateship, and El Jardín, an online collection of Herrera’s poetic responses to and curators’ descriptions of primary sources in the Library of Congress.
  • American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities” by Tracy K. Smith (Poet Laureate from 2017 to 2019). Smith traveled to rural locations across various states to lead poetry readings and discussions. The goal of this project was to spread the connective powers of poetry beyond cities and university-centered areas to locations where poetry programming does not often happen.

Who is the current Poet Laureate?

[Pictured Joy Harjo]

The current Poet Laureate is Joy Harjo , a poet, playwright, and musician. Harjo is the author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave. She is also a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the first Native American person to be appointed as Poet Laureate.

In addition to her role as Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo directs an arts mentorship program for young Muscogee women called For Girls Becoming and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She is curating Poem-a-Day for the entire month of April 2020, so check it out and sign up to be emailed previously unpublished work from contemporary poets.

When asked about her plans as Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo said:

          “I can remind people that they use poetry, go to poetry, frequently, and may not even know they are. A lot of song lyrics are poetry. They go to poetry for a transformational moment, to speak when there are no words to speak.”

Like any art, poetry brings us human connection, understanding, and expression. Reading it can show us the words, written by someone entirely different, for the exact things we have always felt.

Read some poems by Joy Harjo here on and

Happy National Poetry Month!

Featured Bookshelf: National Poetry Month

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

The Academy of American Poets, inspired by the success of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, created National Poetry Month in 1996. It is the largest literary celebration in the world and UCF Libraries are proud to do their part.

UCF Libraries have gathered suggestions to feature 12 books of poetry that are currently in the UCF collection. These works represent the wide range of favorite poetry books of our faculty and staff.

Since we are in strange times and realize that access to the physical books chosen by the Libraries is extremely limited at the moment, we have also crafted a list of digital poetry works that can be read from the comfort of your home: Poetry reading digital edition.

Featured Bookshelf: National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

2020 Poetry Month Contests

Are you looking for something fun to take your mind off everything that’s happening in the world right now? Have you thought about writing poetry?

The UCF Libraries 2020 Poetry Contests are now open for submissions. Try your hand at crafting a charming haiku or a slick limerick all from the comfort of your room.

Haiku deadline is April 12 at 11:59 pm
Limerick deadline is April 19 at 11:59 pm

Full contest details and submission form at

women's history month 2020 banner

Downtown Library Feature: Women’s History Month

March marks Women’s History Month and St. Patrick’s Day, and the Downtown Campus Library is celebrating. 

Our Women’s History Month exhibit features four women who have significantly contributed to four of the fields that Downtown Campus students study: Urban Planning, Culinary Sciences, Health Services, and Digital Media. Come see who we have featured and read about their inspiring careers. 

Included in the festivities is a paper doll craft. We have different body types to choose from, with clothing stencils that correspond to each body type. You can trace the stencils onto various patterned paper, or you can completely design your own style. Come make a mini-me or a replica of a woman who inspires you. 

If you stop by the Library during March, don’t forget to make a wish on a four-leaf clover. Our Library Leprechaun might just grant you one desire. 



All WomanFest 2020 events for March 19 will be rescheduled for the Fall 2020 semester. Date to be announced in a few weeks.

UCF Libraries and the Women’s & Gender Studies Program are proud to announce the 4th annual WomanFest! Join us for four events featuring amazing women from around campus and in history.

Thursday, March 19, 2020
John C. Hitt Library 223

Women in Academia panel
10:00 – 11:00 am

UCF faculty members Dr. Linda Walters (Biology, Center for Success of Women Faculty), Dr. Amelia Lyons (History), Dr. Nessette Falu (Anthropology), and Dr. RoSusan Bartee (Educational Leadership and Higher Education) discuss their career paths, how to find a work/life balance, and their struggles faced and battles won as women in higher education. Panel moderated by Dr. Leandra Preston-Sidler (Women & Gender Studies).

Women and Body Image
12:00 – 1:30 pm

The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders will provide lunch and a presentation on body image, health, and wellness. Event is limited to 50 participants. Please RSVP at: Eventbrite: Women and Body Image

Women’s History Trivia Contest
2:00 – 3:30 pm

How much do you know about women’s history? UCF Libraries and the Women & Gender Studies Program are hosting a rousing pub-style trivia game featuring questions about interesting women in history, female firsts at UCF, and songs by well-known female musicians. Make new friends as we play in teams. Will you come out on top?

Women & Leadership with Rep. Anna Eskamani
6:00 – 7:00 pm

Florida Representative and UCF alumnae Anna Eskamani discusses women, politics, activism and leadership.

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