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California Poet Laureate

California Poet Laureate

The honorary title of Poet Laureate was first used in England in the 1600s. "Laureate" refers to the ancient Greek tradition of placing a wreath of laurel on the head as recognition for significant achievements.

Before the position was made official by the California legislature, there were five persons who held the honorary title of Poet Laureate of California. It was a lifetime appointment. In 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed AB 113 which established an official position. The state Poet Laureate is now appointed by the Governor for a two year term.

Ina Donna Coolbrith: 1915 - 1928. The first laureate was Ina Coolbrith, chosen by Governor Hiram Warren Johnson on June 30, 1915. She was named "The Loved Laurel Crowned Poet of California" by the Legislature of 1919, and held the title until her death in 1928.

Dr. Henry Meade Bland: 1929 - 1931. Dr. Henry Meade Bland held the title until his death in 1931, just two years later.

John Steven McGroarty: 1933 - 1944. In 1933, the Legislature designated John Steven McGroarty as "Poet Laureate of California," which title he held until his death in 1944.

Gordon W. Norris: 1953 - 1961. Gordon W. Norris was appointed by the Legislature in 1953 and served until his death on December 18, 1961.

Charles B. Garrigus: 1966 - 2000. Charles Garrigus was appointed by the Legislature in March 1966. Mr. Garrigus was the first Poet Laureate ever appointed who had also served in the State Legislature.

After Garrigus' death, lawmakers opted to change the position of Poet Laureate. With the signing of AB 113, the position now requires that the position holder provide six public readings across the state and undertake a significant cultural project that brings students in touch with the poetic arts.

Quincy T. Troupe: 2002. Governor Gray Davis appointed Quincy T. Troupe to the official position on June 11, 2002. He resigned in October 2002.

Al Young: 2005-2008. On May 12, 2005 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Al Young as California's Poet Laureate. He was confirmed by the Senate in 2006.

Carol Muske-Dukes: 2008-. On November 13, 2008 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Carol Muske-Dukes as California's Poet Laureate. She is charged with educating Californians about the many literary icons who have come from California and added to its cultural heritage. She is also charged with encouraging a new generation of poets to take up the mantle of creative expression and bringing poetry to students who otherwise would have little opportunity to be exposed to it.

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Last updated by teeterj on Oct. 26, 2010

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While the Library has verified the information presented in these files in what it considers to be reliable and authoritative sources, it cannot take responsibility for nor guarantee the accuracy of the information presented.