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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 poets.org and poetryfoundation.org

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 https://ucflib.fyi/npm

National Poetry Month

Poetry Contest Winners!

Congratulations to our 2019 Poetry Contest winners!

They each received a #UCFLibrary waterbottle and their work as been added to the KnightVerse, the student writing contest section of UCF Libraries’ digital repository, STARS.

Haiku winner:
Fountain Finals” by Tim Walker

Sonnet winner:
Together Apart” by Abel Birchfield

2019 National Poetry Month book covers

Featured Bookshelf: National Poetry month

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,  
And stands about the woodland ride  
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.”
– A. E. Housman, Loveliest of Trees

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 14 books of poetry that are currently in the UCF collection. These works represent a wide range of favorite poetry books of our faculty and staff.

These, and additional titles, are also on the Featured Bookshelf display on the second (main) floor next to the bank of two elevators where they are joined by a selection of nature poetry.

Click on the link below for the full book descriptions and links.

Featured Bookshelf: National Poetry Month

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