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 x132

PLOTUS Americus

Tracy K. Smith

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 MAY 25 & 26. See PLOTUS live by picking up free tickets at the library Front Desk beginning MAY 9. 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 Tracy K. Smith, who was born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California. She earned a BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she held a Stegner fellowship at Stanford University. Smith is the author of three books of poetry: The Body's Question (2003), which won the Cave Canem prize for the best first book by an African-American poet; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essense Literary Award; Life on Mars (2011), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Wade in the Water (forthcoming, April 2018). In 2014 she was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship. She has also written a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction.

In June 2017, Smith was named U.S. poet laureate. She teaches creative writing at Princeton University. Read some of her poems here.

Thirsty for more knowledge about PLOTUS?

Library of Congress page about TKS

Poetry Foundation page about TKS

List of poet laureates

Wikipedia page about poet laureates