U.S. Poet Laureate

What you should know about PLOTUS

April is National Poetry Month

Teton County Library

Communications Teamcommunications@tclib.org, 307-733-2164 x.112

PLOTUS Americus

Juan Felipe Herrera

What is PLOTUS? The rarest and most poetic member of the homo sapiens Americus species, the Poet Laureate of the United States (PLOTUS) is appointed to a one-year term by that other rare species, the Librarian of Congress. Both species subsist on an omnivorous diet of words and letters.

Where can you find PLOTUS? Coming to Jackson Hole in April (poetry month, of course!) See PLOTUS live by picking up free tickets at the library Front Desk beginning April 3. Thank you Teton County Library Foundation!

What does a PLOTUS do? Poets Laureate are well familiar with this question, and hard-pressed to provide a clear answer. Howard Nemerov wrote, only half joking, in 1963:

The Consultant in Poetry is a very busy man, chiefly because he spends so much time talking with people who want to know what the Consultant in Poetry does. Howard NemerovHow do individuals vary within this species? Officially, 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. Each PLOTUS brings a different emphasis to the position. Maxine Kumin started a popular series of poetry workshops for women at the Library of Congress. Gwendolyn Brooks met with elementary school students to encourage them to write poetry. Joseph Brodsky initiated the idea of providing poetry in airports, supermarkets and hotel rooms. Rita Dove, considered the first activist poet laureate, brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists, championed children's poetry and jazz with poetry events and read at the White House during Bill Clinton's first state dinner. Robert Hass organized a "Watershed" conference that brought together noted novelists, poets and storytellers to talk about writing, nature and community, and co-founded the River of Words K–12 international children's poetry and art contest.[2] Robert Pinsky initiated the Favorite Poem Project. Billy Collins's "Poetry 180" project distributed a poem to all high schools for every day of the school year. http://blogs.loc.gov/catbird/2012/02/what-do-poets-laureate-do/

Who is the current PLOTUS? The current PLOTUS is Juan Felipe Herrera, a poet of Chicano descent. The 67-year-old has spent just about his whole life on the West Coast. Born to a family of migrant farmworkers, Herrera bounced from tent to trailer for much of his youth in Southern California, eventually going on to study at UCLA and Stanford. The New York Times said, “his poems are filled with hard labor and indeterminate spaces, an awareness of chromosomatic imperialism and of Greyhound Bus stations of the soul. He understands people who are drained from the day’s hassle.…you’d like to hear him at the National Mall because his work is built to be spoken aloud. His best poems are polyrhythmic and streaked with a nettling wit.”

Thirsty for more knowledge about PLOTUS?

Library of Congress page about JFH

Poetry Foundation page about JFH

List of poet laureates

Wikipedia page about poet laureates