poet laureate

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poet laureate

(lô`rēĭt), title conferred in Britain by the monarch on a poet whose duty it is to write commemorative odes and verse. It is an outgrowth of the medieval English custom of having versifiers and minstrels in the king's retinue, and of the later royal patronage of poets, such as ChaucerChaucer, Geoffrey
, c.1340–1400, English poet, one of the most important figures in English literature. Life and Career

The known facts of Chaucer's life are fragmentary and are based almost entirely on official records.
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 and SpenserSpenser, Edmund,
1552?–1599, English poet, b. London. He was the friend of men eminent in literature and at court, including Gabriel Harvey, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Robert Sidney, earl of Leicester.
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. Ben JonsonJonson, Ben,
1572–1637, English dramatist and poet, b. Westminster, London. The high-spirited buoyancy of Jonson's plays and the brilliance of his language have earned him a reputation as one of the great playwrights in English literature.
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 seems to have had what amounted to the laureateship from Charles I in 1617, but the present title, adopted from the Greek and Roman custom of crowning with a wreath of laurel, was first given to John DrydenDryden, John,
1631–1700, English poet, dramatist, and critic, b. Northamptonshire, grad. Cambridge, 1654. He went to London about 1657 and first came to public notice with his Heroic Stanzas (1659), commemorating the death of Oliver Cromwell.
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 in 1670.

Dryden's successors have been Thomas ShadwellShadwell, Thomas,
1642?–1692, English dramatist and poet. His plays, written in the tradition of Jonson's comedy of humours, are distinguished for their realistic pictures of London life and for their frank and witty dialogue.
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 (1688–92), Nahum TateTate, Nahum
, 1652–1715, English poet and dramatist, b. Dublin. He wrote several popular adaptations of Shakespeare, the most famous being his King Lear (1681), in which he omitted the part of the fool and had Cordelia survive to marry Edgar.
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 (1692–1715), Nicholas RoweRowe, Nicholas
, 1674–1718, English dramatist. An ardent Whig, he was able to gain various government posts during the course of his life. In 1715 he became poet laureate.
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 (1715–18), Laurence Eusden (1718–30), Colley CibberCibber, Colley
, 1671–1757, English dramatist and actor-manager. Joining the company at the Theatre Royal in 1690, Cibber became successful as a comedian, playing the fops of Restoration comedy.
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 (1730–57), William WhiteheadWhitehead, William,
1715–85, English poet and playwright. He wrote several plays based on ancient Greek models, including Creusa, Queen of Athens (1754). Whitehead was appointed poet laureate in 1757.
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 (1757–85), Thomas WartonWarton, Thomas,
1728–90, English poet and literary historian, grad. Trinity College, Oxford (1747), brother of Joseph Warton. He was ordained and eventually served as professor of poetry at Oxford from 1757 to 1767.
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 (1785–90), Henry Pye (1790–1813), Robert SoutheySouthey, Robert
, 1774–1843, English author. Primarily a poet, he was numbered among the so-called Lake poets. While at Oxford he formed (1794) a friendship with Coleridge and joined with him in a plan for an American utopia along the Susquehanna River that was never
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 (1813–43), William WordsworthWordsworth, William,
1770–1850, English poet, b. Cockermouth, Cumberland. One of the great English poets, he was a leader of the romantic movement in England. Life and Works

In 1791 he graduated from Cambridge and traveled abroad.
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 (1843–50), Alfred, Lord TennysonTennyson, Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron
, 1809–92, English poet. The most famous poet of the Victorian age, he was a profound spokesman for the ideas and values of his times.
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 (1850–92), Alfred AustinAustin, Alfred,
1835–1913, English author, b. Leeds. Originally trained for a legal career, he eventually turned to writing and politics. From 1883–95 he edited the National Review.
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 (1892–1913), Robert BridgesBridges, Robert Seymour,
1844–1930, English poet. In 1882 he abandoned medical practice to devote himself to writing. An excellent metrist, he wrote many beautiful lyrics and longer poems, noted for their refined simplicity and perfection of form.
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 (1913–30), John MasefieldMasefield, John
, 1878–1967, English poet. He went to sea as a youth and later spent several years in the United States. In 1897 he returned to England and was on the staff of the Manchester Guardian.
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 (1930–67), Cecil Day LewisDay Lewis, C.
(Cecil Day Lewis), 1904–72, English author, b. Ireland. While he was still at Oxford, he became associated with a group of leftist poets led by W. H. Auden. After graduation he taught at various schools until 1935 and then decided to devote himself to writing.
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 (1968–72), John BetjemanBetjeman, Sir John
, 1906–84, English poet, b. London. Traditional in rhyme and meter, his verse combined a witty appraisal of the English present with nostalgia for England's past, especially the Victorian past. His published collections include Mt.
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 (1972–84), Ted HughesHughes, Ted
(Edward James Hughes), 1930–98, English poet, b. Mytholmyroyd, Yorkshire, studied Cambridge. Hughes's best poetry focuses on the unsentimental within nature.
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 (1984–98), Andrew Motion (1999–2009), the first poet to serve for 10 years (instead of for life), and Carol Ann Duffy (2009–), Britain's first female laureate. In recent years the position's ceremonial duties have largely been eliminated.

In the United States, the poet laureate is charged with raising "the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry." It is an annual position but may be held for a series of years; the poet is chosen by the Librarian of Congress. It was instituted in 1937 as the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress and was held by 30 poets before an act of Congress (1985) changed the name to poet laureate. Robert Penn WarrenWarren, Robert Penn,
1905–89, American novelist, poet, and critic, b. Guthrie, Ky., grad. Vanderbilt Univ. 1925; M.A., Univ. of California 1927; B.Litt., Oxford 1930.
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 became (1986) the first to hold the title of poet laureate in United States. His successors have been Richard WilburWilbur, Richard,
1921–2017, American poet and translator, b. New York City, B.A. Amherst, 1942, M.A. Harvard, 1947. A virtuoso craftsman who wrote with grace and precision in traditional verse forms, Wilbur was always original and generally affirmative in his view of the
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 (1987–88), Howard NemerovNemerov, Howard
, 1920–91, American poet, novelist, and critic, b. New York City, grad. Harvard, 1941; brother of photographer Diane Arbus. He taught at Bennington College for many years and was associated with Washington Univ. in St. Louis from 1969 until his death.
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 (1988–90), Mark StrandStrand, Mark,
1934–2014, American poet, b. Prince Edward Island, Canada, grad. Antioch College (B.A., 1957), Yale (B.F.A., 1959), Iowa Writers' Workshop (M.A., 1962).
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 (1990–91), Joseph BrodskyBrodsky, Joseph
(Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky) , 1940–96, Russian-American poet, b. Leningrad (St. Petersburg). A disciple of Anna Akhmatova, he began writing poetry in 1955.
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 (the first foreign-born laureate; 1991–92), Mona Van Duyn (the first woman laureate; 1992–93), Rita DoveDove, Rita,
1952–, American poet, b. Akron, Ohio, studied Iowa Writers' Workshop (M.F.A., 1977). Her first poetry collection, Ten Poems, was published in 1977. Her verse is at once concise, precise, and evocative.
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 (the first African-American laureate; 1993–95), Robert Hass (1995–97), Robert Pinsky (1997–2000), Stanley KunitzKunitz, Stanley Jasspon
, 1905–2006, American poet, teacher, and editor, b. Worcester, Mass. He graduated from Harvard (B.A., 1926; M.A., 1927), worked as a journalist and editor, and taught poetry at many colleges and universities, notably Columbia (1967–85).
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 (2000–2001), Billy Collins (2001–3), Louise Glück (2003–4), Ted Kooser (2004–6), Donald Hall (2006–7), Charles SimicSimic, Charles
, 1938–, American poet, b. Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now in Serbia), grad. New York Univ. (B.A., 1966). Simic moved to the United States in 1954, joining his father, who had arrived before World War II.
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 (2007–8), Kay RyanRyan, Kay,
1945–, American poet, b. San Jose, Calif., grad. Univ. of California at Los Angeles (B.A., 1967; M.A., 1968). She taught remedial English in a Marin co. community college for more than 30 years.
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 (2008–10), W. S. MerwinMerwin, W. S.
(William Stanley Merwin), 1927–2019, American poet and translator, b. New York City. After graduating from Princeton in 1948, he traveled in Europe, working as a tutor and studying Romance languages, a period described many years later in his memoir
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 (2010–11), Philip LevineLevine, Philip,
1928–2015, American poet, b. Detroit, grad. Wayne State Univ. (B.A., 1950; A.M., 1954), Univ. of Iowa (M.F.A., 1957). The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he held a variety of industrial jobs as a young man, and his work experiences shaped the subjects and
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 (2011–12), Natasha Trethewey (2012–14), Charles WrightWright, Charles,
1935–, American poet, b. Pickwick Dam, Tenn. While in the army in Italy (1957–61), he began reading Pound's Cantos, which, along with his Southern roots and ancient Chinese poetry, influenced his work.
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 (2014–15), Juan Felipe Herrera (2015–17), Tracy K. Smith (2017–19), and Joy Harjo (the first Native-American laureate, 2019–21).


See K. Hopkins, The Poets Laureate (1954, repr. 1966).

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poet laureate

Brit the poet appointed as court poet of Britain who is given a post as an officer of the Royal Household. The first was Ben Jonson in 1616
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The Acocks Green schoolgirl was crowned Birmingham's Young Poet Laureate at the city's Literature Festival, beating off competition from hundreds of hopefuls.
Mr O'Brien, a lecturer in Shakespeare and Creativity at the University of Birmingham, becomes Poet Laureate for 2018-20, succeeding poet Matt Windle.
The new website was designed to be fun and whimsical and interactive, said Marc Harshman, Poet Laureate. This site will be used as another tool to support my desire to give back with stories and poems.
Simic, poet laureate 2007-08, was born in Belgrade and came to this country with his family, living in Chicago.
For hundreds of years, the Poet Laureate was awarded the barrel by the Royal Family, but the tradition fell by the wayside in modern times.
Then comes the moment when a new Poet Laureate has to be appointed and things can get a bit more bare knuckle.
AN EX-Rover worker was today awarded the title of Birmingham's next Poet Laureate.
While the poet laureates of other countries typically are required to write works commemorating historical events (pity poor British poet laureate Andrew Motion, who had to write a poem on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles), the official duties of U.S.
On December 18, 2001 legislation to create the office of Parliamentary Poet Laureate was given Royal Assent.
In England the office of poet laureate is remarkable for its continuity.
"In the United States we've come to look at poetry as extraneous, not at all practical," said Allen Hoey, an English instructor and the poet laureate of Bucks County.
Everything's like that for the American poet laureate. The British laureate gets a "butt of sack" (about 600 bottles of sherry) and is called upon to compose verse for national occasions.