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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Poet Laureate: Donald Hall

As of yesterday, we have a new poet laureate.

It's a prestigious position, but can you name the person who held it since 2004? How about the new one? OK, can you name any poet laureates? How many? Have you read any of their poetry?

The new poet laureate, Donald Hall, wants to raise the visibility of poetry. He's hoping that he'll be able to work with media outlets like NPR and HBO to put more poetry through the airwaves and cable lines.

Donald Hall is a poet who taught at the University of Michigan from 1957 until 1975. It was there that he met and married fellow poet (and then-student) Jane Kenyon. The two of them moved to a New Hampshire farm and began producing volumes of poetry. Hall's poetry began focusing on love, loss, and death after Kenyon's death of leukemia in 1995.

In addition to poetry, Hall has written novels, children's books, and plays. He was educated at Harvard and Oxford.

Oh, and so you won't leave here saying you don't know any poet laureates, here are a few through the years for you:

  1. The first poet laureate was Joseph Auslander. He was appointed in 1937 and served through 1941. Unsurprisingly, his fame came from his war poems.
  2. Robert Penn Warren served from 1944-45. He later won two Pulitzers and wrote an important textbook on studying poetry at the college level.
  3. Louise Bogan was the first female poet laurate. She served from 1945-1946. In addition to writing poetry, she spent 38 year reviewing it for the New Yorker magazine.
  4. Karl Shapiro served as poet laureate after coming home from World War II. His fiance had published the poetry he sent her, poetry that would win a Pulitzer Prize.
  5. Robert Lowell, the father of confessional poetry, was another poet laureate from the 40s.
  6. Elizabeth Bishop
  7. Conrad Aiken
  8. William Carlos Williams
  9. Robert Frost
  10. Robert Penn Warren
  11. Robert Pinsky served three terms in a row--more than any other poet laureate. He held the post from 1997 to 2000.
  12. Ted Kooser served the most recent term from 2004 to 2006. He's also a Pulitzer winner and has won two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships among other awards.


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