Poets Laureate*

A Poet Laureate--as the name implies--is a poet who has been singled out for special honor by his or her country (or state, or organization). While many countries have such a post, as do at least 13 American states (John Denver was once Poet Laureate of Colorado), the ones of most significance for English speakers are those from the United Kingdom and the United States. (Links lead to all Listings labeled for each country's Poets Laureate.)

John Dryden

Since the 1668 appointment by Charles the Second as of John Dryden as Poet Laureate of England, the U.K. has given out only 20 such honors. Appointed by the monarch with the Prime Minister's advice, the holder of the post originally served for life. Since 1999, however, it has been a fixed 10-year term (or life, I guess, whichever comes first).

Those upstart colonies, in contrast, have had 47 since Joseph Auslander (remember him?) first took the post in 1937, with (mostly) two year terms. The Librarian of Congress names the appointees, who, like their counterparts in the U.K., receive a pretty good stipend. They were called simply "Consultants in Poetry" before 1986; Robert Penn Warren, then, was the first Poet Laureate so called (actually, "Poet Laureate Consultants in Poetry"). Although 47 people have held the office, there have been 51 terms, because, Howard Nemerov, Reed Whittemore (once as "interim"), Robert Penn Warren, and Stanley Kunitz have each served twice.

The Laureates are listed here in chronological order, and will soon be linked to their Listings. Unlinked names are not currently covered in the Listings.

*Posts are labeled "UK Poet Laureate" or "US Poet Laureate" as appropriate.

Poets Laureate of the United Kingdom (Labels)
  • John Dryden (1668-1688)
  • Thomas Shadwell (1689-1692)
  • Nahum Tate (1692-1715)
  • Nicholas Rowe (1715-1718)
  • Laurence Eusden (1718-1730)
  • Colley Cibber (1730-1757)
  • William Whitehead (1757-1785)
  • Thomas Warton (1785-1790)
  • Henry James Pye (1790-1813)
  • Robert Southey (1813-1843)
  • William Wordsworth (1843-1850)
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1850-1892)
  • Alfred Austin (1896-1913)
  • Robert Bridges (1913-1930)
  • John Masefield (1930-1967)
  • Cecil Day-Lewis (1968-1972)
  • John Betjeman (1972-1984)
  • Ted Hughes (1984-1998)
  • Andrew Motion (1999-2009)
  • Carol Ann Duffy (2009-present)

United States Poets Laureate (Labels)

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