Two states last week announced the appointments of new poets laureate. Marilyn Taylor was appointed Wisconsin’s poet laureate by Governor Jim Doyle. In California, the honor was given to Carol Muske-Dukes by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Each will serve as poet laureate for a two-year term.
“Serving as Wisconsin’s poet laureate represents not only an enormous honor, but also an exceptional opportunity to act on behalf of Wisconsin poetry,” Taylor said in a press release from the governor’s office. “My first priority will be to showcase our state as a great nurturing place for the arts, where a long tradition of extraordinary creativity and originality is allowed to thrive.”
Taylor served as the city of Milwaukee’s poet laureate from 2004 to 2005. An adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, she is the author of six books, including Subject to Change (David Robert Books, 2004). As poet laureate she is required to attend four statewide literary events each year, perform in four events, and lead one large-scale project designed to contribute to the growth of Wisconsin poetry and expose new audiences.
Carol Muske-Dukes will also use her role as state poet laureate to educate and inspire an appreciation for poetry. “I am truly honored to be named California’s poet laureate and I look forward to serving the people of California and poetry which reaches the hearts and imagination of young and old in both urban and remote areas of this diverse and dynamic state,” Muske-Dukes said in a statement. In California, the laureateship requires Senate confirmation and pays ten thousand dollars over the two years.
Muske-Dukes has written seven books of poetry, including the National Book Award finalist Sparrow (Random House, 2003), four novels, and two essay collections. She has taught at the University of Southern California since 1993. She is also a critic for the New York Times Book Review and the LA Times Book Review. As laureate she will work in conjunction with the California Arts Council.
A total of forty-two states and the District of Columbia appoint poets laureate across the country. The first state poet laureate was Ina Coolbrith, who was appointed in 1919 in California. Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have no poet laureate position.