Meet the 19 women serving as America’s state poet laureates

April is National Poetry Month, and you better believe we’re celebrating. To start, we’ve compiled a list of all the women currently serving as state poet laureates in the United States. Several cities and organizations are represented by poet laureates who are women, like Molly Fisk, who was recently appointed the first poet laureate of Nevada County. As for the Navajo Nation, it’s the only indigenous nation to appoint a poet laureate, and is currently represented by Laura Tohe.

"...when the fights and quarrels broke the blue world apart / the cranes gathered their songs and dances and maps / and flew towards the stars" — from Tohe's "Map Songs of the Sandhill Cranes"


Forty-three states appoint a poet laureate to represent and encourage poetry, and 19 of them are currently women. We’d love for you to meet them.

1Ernestine Hayes (Alaska)

“Our loved ones. / Those beings who live in the spoken forest. / They are holding everything for us.” — from “The Spoken Forest

2Peggy Caudle Vining (Arkansas)

“The spirit of a mountain mist was host, / Her phantom figure hovered, light as wind, / And I became enchanted by her ghost.” — from “Arkansas, The Natural State

3Dolores Kendrick (District of Columbia)

“The women of plums are sweet and black, / Their flesh moist with tears of joy.” — from “Canticles of a Black Lady

4Diane Raptosh (Idaho)

“…If the blue heart / of time lapped slowly enough, we could watch / mountains grow…” — from “The Forearm Poem

5Shari Wagner (Indiana)

“Stepping on a crack / would break my mother’s back / so I walked to kindergarten / looking down. / In a secret garden / between two shrubs, / I planted teardrops / from a watermelon.” — from “Year of the Rabbit

6Mary Swander (Iowa)

“There she sits and / smiles and smiles / with her hand on / the tiller of the moon.” — from “Letter

7Joyce Sutphen (Minnesota)

“And what was I thinking of when I stopped / thinking about Love? Death, of course—what else / could take Love’s place? What else could hold such force?” — from “ At the Moment

8Beth Ann Fennelly (Mississippi)

“…We are / the renters, hoarders of bloated boxes, / foam peanuts. When the Welcome Wagon / of local dogs visits our garbage, / we’re not sure which houses to yell at.” — from “We Are The Renters

9Aliki Barnstone (Missouri)

“When she spoke, a peacock showed off, opened the hundred eyes / of his plumage, turning slowly all-seeing in the orchard…” — from “When We Were Girls in Goshen

10Twyla M. Hansen (Nebraska)

“In the leaden dark, we are utterly alone. As I rub the ridges / on the back of your hand, our love for all things warm / and pulsing crescendos toward dawn.” — from “August 12 in the Nebraska Sand Hills Watching the Perseids Meteor Shower”

11Alice B. Fogel (New Hampshire)

“Drink, little one. Take what I can give you. / Tonight the whole world prowls / the perimeters of your life.” — from “ The Necessity

12Jeanetta Calhoun Mish (Oklahoma)

“How could I have known the north star / whispered a dark secret to the wind— / how could I have known the ghosts heard it, too?” — from “That Summer…

13Elizabeth Woody (Oregon)

“Filled with old lovers, in the clutch of the chair, / you are a bloom of uncombed hair.” — from “ Girlfriends

14Tina Cane (Rhode Island)

“a boy in red pants and silvertone chain / from his navel came tumble-dried flames licking his chest of crossbones.” — from “(Souvenir) First Kiss

15Marjory Heath Wentworth (South Carolina)

“Because our history is a knot / we try to unravel, while others / try to tighten it, we tire easily / and fray the cords that bind us.” — from “One River, One Boat

16Lee Ann Roripaugh (South Dakota)

“…she was ushered from one / life through the gate of another, / wreathed in the dubious and illusory / perfume of plucked orchids.” — from “ Transplanting

17Margaret Britton Vaughn (Tennessee)

“I’ve got fifty years of Saturday Nights / packed in an old memory. / I’ve been tucking them away for years / in a trunk as big as Tennessee.” — from “Fifty Years of Saturday Nights

18Laurie Ann Guerrero (Texas)

false “Perhaps with coffee, / you’d have the little lobe / of my ear sugared as a wedding cookie.” — from “ Last Meal: Breakfast Tacos, San Antonio, Tejas

19Karla Huston (Wisconsin)

“My mother wore Love That Red / and when she put it on, I knew / she was going further / than the clothesline / or the edge of our corner lot.” — from “Love That Red

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