What’s Love Got To Do With It? U.S. Poet Laureates


Nothing against the new U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall — I’m sure he’s due, well-qualified, palatable to the masses, etc. Alas, there were no worthwhile poets of the other gender available for the position? Any recommendations?

And I won’t even get into race … So without further ado, for the love of poetry:

U.S. Poet Laureate Timeline [1937 – 2006 = 36 Men and 8 Women]

1937-1941 — Joseph Auslander
1943-1944 — Allen Tate
1944-1945 –Robert Penn Warren
1945-1946 — Louise Bogan
1946-1947 — Karl Shapiro
1947-1948 — Robert Lowell
1948-1949 — Leonie Adams
1949-1950 — Elizabeth Bishop
1950 – 1952 — Conrad Aiken
1952 — William Carlos Williams
1956-1958 — Randall Jarrell
1958-1959 — Robert Frost
1959-1961 — Richard Eberhart
1961-1963 — Louis Untermeyer
1963-1964 — Howard Nemerov
1964-1965 — Reed Whittemore
1965-1966 — Stephen Spender
1966-1968 — James Dickey
1968-1970 — William Jay Smith
1970-1971 — William Stafford
1971-1973 — Josephine Jacobsen
1973-1974 — Daniel Hoffman
1974-1976 — Stanley Kunitz
1976-1978 — Robert Hayden
1978-1980 — William Meredith
1981-1982 — Maxine Kumin
1982-1984 — Anthony Hecht
1984-1985 — Robert Fitzgerald
1984-1985 — Reed Whittemore
1985-1986 — Gwendolyn Brooks
1986-1987 — Robert Penn Warren
1987-1988 — Richard Wilbur
1988-1990 — Howard Nemerov
1990-1991 — Mark Strand
1991-1992 — Joseph Brodsky
1992-1993 — Mona Van Duyn
1993-1995 — Rita Dove
1995-1997 — Robert Hass
1997-2000 — Robert Pinsky
1999-2000 — Special Bicentennial Consultants, 1999-2000: Rita Dove, Louise Glück, and W.S. Merwin
2000-2001 — Stanley Kunitz
2001-2003 — Billy Collins
2003-2004 — Louise Glück
2004-2006 — Ted Kooser
2006 — 2007 Donald Hall


2011 UPDATE  – U.S. Poet Laureate Timeline [1937 – 2011 = 40 Men and 9 Women]

3 Responses to “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

  1. Christine Hamm Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 4:43 pm eHey, you know what this shows?Women are just not as good as men.
  2. charles alexander Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 5:39 pm elynhejiniankathleenfraserericahuntharryettemullendianediprimaannewaldmanlisajarnotelenisikelianosstacydorisjennifermoxleywandacolemansoniasanchezjaynecortezmeimeiberssenbrugge
  3. Dan Coffey Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 6:50 pm eWell, since Hall subsumed the poetic spirit of his late wife, it’s almost as good as a 9th female PL, isn’t it?
  4. mairead Says:
    June 16th, 2006 at 2:58 am eI think Lucille Clifton would be good, if she was willing.
  5. susana Says:
    June 16th, 2006 at 3:24 am eHmmm. Very interesting post Amy. I concur & who appoints these people anyway? Since Louise Glück & Rita Dove served two appointments does this mean they count twice?I think they’re are many fabulous female-poets who would qualify, but we would also have to think like they think in terms of who we might suggest.

    I agree, Lucille Clifton is a great suggestion. Carolyn Forche too, perhaps.

    And why hasn’t Adrienne Rich ever served? There surely must be a reason….

  6. EL Says:
    June 17th, 2006 at 4:20 pm eI’m glad you posted on this. Like I said on my own blog, it’s not like Hall sucks or anything, it’s just that there are so many kick-ass female poets and poets of color, I just wish we’d see ‘em in this role.I suspect it relates to the “universality” issue, which is as concerning as the lack of women and people of color as PL in general.
  7. Slant Truth » Blog Archive » Don’t Call It A Comeback… Says:
    June 17th, 2006 at 6:08 pm e[…] Alas, a Blog: A Funny Little Story and a Bunch-o-Links Amy King: What’s Love Got to do With it? (Ummm…yeah. Where are the women and POC?) […]
  8. Jessica Says:
    June 18th, 2006 at 10:39 pm e“Why hasn’t Adrienne Rich ever served? There surely must be a reason”
    I think the reason is… it’s a patriarchy? Patriarchies aren’t so fond of people who don’t fit into the heterosexual hegemony.I think Cole Swenson should be Poet Laureat(t)e. And it would be ok, you see, because she’s lovely, graceful, and charming so she seems non-threatening to the Crown. But we know she’s on our side. Alice Notley might be able to slip in under the radar too. Most of the people you suggest, Charles Alexander, although fine poets, would just never have a chance at such a position. The Poet Laureate is just a projection of the established power. I think that to alter such a position (thus making the tiniest proxy stab at the Power) one has to send in spies–people that look innocent but aren’t.
  9. Amy King Says:
    June 19th, 2006 at 2:20 pm eSwenson would make a wonderful PL; however, I wonder if she would meet the generic criteria by which the Librarian of Congress makes *his* selections:“The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress serves as the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans. 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.”

    Who will best “raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry” and who can stand in as “the nation’s official lightning rod…” is currently determined by Dr. James H. Billington. How he makes his decisions is not noted.

    Another problem, I think, is that women aren’t involved in these offices and this type of politics enough (see my link to Paul Hoover’s blog in the next day’s brief entry).

    Finally, Robin Kemp has noted Rich’s politically-influenced acceptances on a listserv — I’ll paste her excerpt here:

    ‘In 1974, she received the National Book Award (Diving Into the Wreck),
    which she refused as an individual but accepted “on behalf of all
    women.” In 1997, she turned down the National Medal for the Arts in retaliation to the U.S. House’s July 1997 vote to end the National Endowment for the Arts, claiming: “Art is our human birthright. Like government, art needs the participation of the many in order not to become the property of a powerful and narrowly self-interested minority.” ‘

    Source: http://www.csindy.com/csindy/1999-09-23/ispy.html

    Anyway, I’m sure Hall makes some folks happy, but it’d be nice if Rich’s last sentiment felt enacted … not much range in the last few laureates.

  10. Amy King Says:
    June 19th, 2006 at 2:25 pm eWhoops. I meant to reference this entry on Paul Hoover’s blog, “Sylvia Plath and Tuna Salad (not the political one I linked to in the next entry)… anyone, his post dealing with some of the determining factors of canonization, which is obviously related to holding the big PL office too:http://paulhooverpoetry.blogspot.com/2006/04/sylvia-plath-and-tuna-salad.html
  11. Dan Coffey Says:
    June 22nd, 2006 at 3:53 pm eThis may get me kicked out of the club, but until Saturday when I was browsing at the Des Moines Borders (which all of a sudden has vastly improved its poetry section), I didn’t know Cole Swensen was a woman.

Gender Politics Poetry

AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I was curious about the first PL –Joseph Auslander, who served for a bit and who I never heard of. He seems to have have been among the youngest of PLs and from what I gather, am oscar Williams/Untermeyer-type poet, better known as an anthologist/editor
    here is a bio I found on the web:

    Joseph Auslander was born to Louis and Martha (Asyueck) Auslander on October 11, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1930, Auslander married Svanhild Kreutz, who died in childbirth in 1932, leaving a daughter, Svanhild Frances Martha. Auslander married Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Audrey Wurdemann in 1933, and the couple had a son, Louis, and a daughter, Mary.

    By the age of 16, Auslander was enrolled at Columbia University. He spent only one year there, leaving to attend Harvard University, where he graduated in 1917. Auslander became an instructor in English at Harvard in 1919 while continuing his graduate work there until 1924. He took a leave of absence from 1921 to 1922 to attend the Sorbonne in Paris on a Parker fellowship. In 1929, he became a lecturer in Poetry at Columbia, where he remained until 1937. From 1937 to 1941, Auslander was the Poet Laureate Consultant in English Poetry for the Library of Congress. In addition, he was the poetry editor for North American Review.

    Auslander, who fervently supported the sale of U.S. war bonds during World War II, collaborated with his second wife to write The Unconquerables, a collection of poems dedicated to war-ravaged Europe. The book was credited with raising funds for the fourth major loan drive of the war. Auslander also teamed up with Wurdemann for two novels, Islanders and My Uncle Jan. Additionally, Auslander co-authored The Winged Horse with Frank Ernest Hill. A history of poetry written for young people, the book was followed up with The Winged Horse Anthology, which was widely used in schools across America. Auslander also translated the poems of Italian author Francesco Petrarch and French author Jean de la Fontaine. Auslander’s own books of poetry include Sunrise Trumpets, Cyclops’ Eye, Hell in Harness, and Letters to Women. He was awarded the Robert Frost Prize for poetry shortly before his death.

    Auslander died of a heart attack on June 22, 1965, on his way to a hospital in South Miami, Florida. He was 67 years old.

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