Poets Laureate of Virginia

Current Poet Laureate 2018-2020: Henry Hart

Poetry Society of Virginia board member Henry Hart was appointed Poet Laureate of Virginia by decree of Governor Ralph Northam on the second day of July, 2018.

Hart is the Hickman Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary. In the course of his new role, he will serve as the ambassador and chief promoter for poetry in Virginia. He has previously published three full-length collections of poetry: The Ghost Ship (1990), The Rooster Mask (1998), and Background Radiation (2007). Additionally he is well known for critical works on such poets as Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, and Robert Lowell. He served as editor for the James Dickey Reader (1999) and his biography of Dickey—James Dickey: The World as a Lie (2000)—is highly regarded as definitive on the subject. It was a finalist in nonfiction for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. Hart's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, Sewanee Review, Denver Quarterly, and numerous other journals. In 2010 he won the Carole Weinstein Prize for Poetry.

Announcement from William & Mary
Author Page at Macmillan Publishing

Past Poets Laureate

Tim Seibles

Born 1955, Tim Seibles is an American poet and educator. He is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently, Fast Animal (Etruscan Press, 2012). Seibles carries the distinction of being the first African American man to serve as Virginia's Poet Laureate. His honors include an Open Voice Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. In 2012 he was nominated for a National Book Award, for Fast Animal. His poems have been published in literary journals and magazines including Callaloo, The Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, Ploughshares, Electronic Poetry Review, Rattle, and in anthologies including Verse & Universe: Poems About Science and Mathematics (Milkweed Editions, 1998) and New American Poets in the 90’s (David R. Godine, 1991). He is is a professor of English at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia where he resides.

Ron Smith

Ron Smith is an American poet and the first writer-in-residence at St. Christopher's School in Richmond, Virginia. He was an inaugural winner of the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize and now serves as a one of four curators for the prize. Smith's poems have appeared in periodicals, including The Nation, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and in anthologies from Wesleyan University Press, Time-Life Books, University of Virginia Press, University of Georgia Press, and University of Illinois Press. His essay-reviews have appeared in The Kenyon Review and other magazines and reference works, most recently in The Georgia Review, Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts, and H-Arete. He is the regular poetry reviewer for The Richmond Times-Dispatch. He is a former president of the Poetry Society of Virginia, a trustee for the Edgar Allan Poe Museum and sits on the board of directors for James River Writers.He has published four volumes of poetry.

Sofia M. Starnes

Sofia M. Starnes is a writer of Philippine-Spanish heritage who has been an American citizen since 1989. Born in Manila, she was educated in the Institución Teresiana (Saint Pedro Poveda College), and subsequently moved to Spain, where she received an advanced degree in English Philology from the University of Madrid. She holds a degree in English Pedagogy from the Instituto de Idiomas in Madrid as well. In 2013, she received a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) degree from Union College (Ky.) She is the author of six collections of poetry with publication in numerous journals and anthologies. She serves as Poetry Editor and Poetry Book Review Editor for The Anglican Theological Review, is the recipient of the 2005 Superior Achievement Award in Poetry of the Virginia Writer's Club, and a 2001 Poetry Fellowship recipient from the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Kelly Cherry

Kelly Cherry is an award-winning novelist, poet, essayist who graduated from the University of Mary Washington in 1961 and received a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the Eudora Welty Professor Emerita of English and Evjue-Bascom Professor Emerita in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she has taught from 1977 until retirement in 1999. Notable honors include the 2012 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, 1990, 1987, 1983 PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards, the 1989 Hanes Poetry Prize, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She has written 27 full-length books of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, eleven chapbooks, and two translations of classical plays.

Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet who taught at Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally she received the Academy of American Poets Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She was born in 1957 in Chatham, Va and died tragically young at the age of 57. Prior to teaching University, she at times worked as a postal carrier and used bookstore manager after completing her degree at VCU. She published seven volumes of poetry, and was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship as well as a Virginia Commission for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship. She was elected to membership in the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 2011.

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Born in 1946, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda is a poet and painter who holds a Master of Arts, a Master in Education, and a Ph.D. from George Mason University. While serving as Poet Laureate, she started a program called the "Poetry Book Giveaway Project" and traveled widely to promote poetry in every corner of Virginia. She is a lifelong educator and has received numerous literary and academic honors. Her service-oriented projects include stints in nursing homes and homeless shelters. From 2010 to 2011, she served as a Literary Arts Specialist with former Virginia Poet Laureate, Claudia Emerson, on a Metrorail Public Art Project conceived by the Art-in-Transit Program of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. She developed a statewide poetry-in-the-schools program at the request of the Poetry Society of Virginia to promote poetry at all instructional levels (K-University). She co-edited with Edward W. Lull an instructional guide, entitled Four Virginia Poets Laureate: A Teaching Guide and secured grant funding to place copies of this book in various educational settings and libraries. She also led an effort through the Poetry Society of Virginia to fund an endowed poetry prize for deserving creative writing students at Virginia colleges and universities. To date, the College Prize, under the auspices of the Academy of American Poets, has been established at the College of William and Mary, the University of Mary Washington, Old Dominion University, the University of Richmond, and Virginia Tech. Today she resides in the River Country region of Virginia with her husband. During Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda’s term as Poet Laureate, the Virginia State Board of Education honored her efforts with a Resolution of Appreciation for “her sustained leadership and devotion to promoting the writing and reading of poetry among Virginia’s young people and to raising the study of the Arts to the highest level.”  

Rita Dove

Rita Dove is an Pulitzer Prize winning American poet and writer who broke barriers by serving as the first African American Poet Laureate of Virginia and Poet Laureate of the United States. She received her BA from Miami University in 1973 and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1977. She received the National Humanities Medal / Charles Frankel Prize, the 3rd Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities in 1997. and more recently, the 2006 Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service in Literature, the 2007 Chubb Fellowship at Yale University, the 2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2009 Premio Capri and the 2011 National Medal of Arts. In 2014 she was honored with the Carole Weinstein Prize in poetry and in 2015, as the first American, with the Poetry and People Prize in Guangdong, China. In 2016 she received the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement from Oregon State University. Collected Poems 1974-2004, released in 2016, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the winner of the NAACP Image Award in poetry and winner of the 2017 Library of Virginia Poetry Award. She was born in 1952 and resides in Charlottesville with her husband.

George Garrett

George Garrett was the author of more than 30 books of fiction, poetry, biography and criticism. He was the Henry Hoyns professor of creative writing at the University of Virginia. He was a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient (1967,) a Guggenheim fellow (1974,) a winner of the American Academy award (1985,) the New York Public Library Literary Lion award (1988,) the T. S. Eliot Award (1989,) the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction (1990,) and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia (2004.) He was born in 1929 and died in 2008, having completed both his Masters and Doctoral degrees in English at Princeton University. Garrett was widely recognized as "one of the most inventive and artistic writers of his generation."

Grace Pow Simpson

Grace Pow Simpson graduated from Winthrop College in 1953. She completed a master’s degree in English at the Hampton-Syndney College in 1973, and taught High School English for 15 years. She was the author of a poetry collection entitled "Dancing the Bones," as well as a recipient of the Rainmaker Award for Poetry. Her woprk saw publication in the Cincinnati Poetry Review, the Formalist, the Southern Poetry Review, and Zone 3. She was born in 1921 and died in 2016 at the age of 84. Her work was featured prominently in the 2004 publication, Four Poets Laureates of Virginia.

Joseph Frederick Awad

Joseph Frederick Awad was an inductee of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He studied English literature at Georgetown University and also attended the Corcoran School of Art. He published four books of poetry: "Neon Distances," "Shenandoah Long Ago," "Leaning to Hear the Music" and "Big Bang: A Poem in 12 Cantos." He was born in 1929 and died in 2009 at the age of eighty. Awad was a former president of the Poetry Society of Virginia, as well as a Vice President of the Virginia Writers Club. In addition to poetry he was also accomplished in painting.

Margaret Ward Morland

Margaret Ward Morland, who was active as an accomplished educator and poet beginning in the 1960s, published two volumes of poetry throughout her career. She taught English at Samford and at Lynchburg College in Virginia, was cited by the YWCA in 1986 as an Academy of Women ARTS honoree, and was also recognized by the National League of American Pen Women.

Kathryn Forrester-Thro

Kathryn Forrester-Thro was named Poet Laureate of Virginia in 1994. During her tenure she launched a campaign titled "Anti-Violence Through the Medium of Poetry," which was recognized by the Governor. She is an Oblate of St. Benedict, and founded a Catholic humanitarian group that provides year-round donations to local people in need.

Guy Carleton Drewry

Guy Carleton Drewry published six volumes of poetry, with work appearing in numerous anthologies. His third book, "A Time for Turning," won the 1952 Poetry Awards Foundation Prize. He was appointed 1970 by the Virginia General Assembly to a lifetime term as Poet Laureate of Virginia. He was a past president of the Virginia Poetry Society, as well as a regional vice president of the Poetry Society of America. His work was published widely in the Nation, New Republic, Yale Review, New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, Poetry, Queen's Quarterly, Voices, Saturday Review and Saturday Evening Post. He was an associate editor of The Lyric from 1929 to 1949. Drewry was born in 1901 and died in 1991.

Ruby Altizer Roberts
1950. Appointed Emerita from 1992-1994

Ruby Altizer Roberts authored two volumes of poetry: Forever Is Too Long (1946) and Command the Stars (1948.) From 1952 until 1977, she was the owner and editor of The Lyric (the oldest poetry magazine in North America, established in 1921 by John R Moreland of Norfolk, a founding member of the Poetry Society of Virginia.) She was a direct descendant of Revolutionary War soldier, Emera Altizer -- who fought in the battle of Yorktown. Her poetry appeared widely on postcards, in magazines, and in newspapers: including the Washington Post and the New York Times. She was born in 1907 and passed away in 2004 at the age of 97. Roberts was the first ever woman laureate in Virginia, as well as one of ther first female state laureates in the nation. She was re-appointed as a Laureate Emerita from 1994-1996.

Leigh Buckner Hanes

Leigh Buckner Hanes was an advisory board member of the Poetry Society of Virginia, and a member of the Virginia Bar Association. He was born in 1893 and died in 1967. He practiced law in Roanoke and was the editor of The Lyric (oldest poetry magazine in North America), from 1929-1949. He was the author of Song of the New Hercules and Other Poems (1930,) Green Girdle (1939,) The Star That I See (1950,) and Wide the Gate: Poems 1925-1957 (1957.)

Thomas Lomax Hunter

Thomas Lomax Hunter was a lawyer and poet. He was born in 1875 and died in 1948. He was descended from a Scottish migrant who immigrated to Virginia in the mid 1800s. He studied at the college of William and Mary, and studied law at Georgetown University. He was admitted to the bar of Virginia in 1908. Day contributed a column titled "As It Appears to the Cavalier" to the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 1929 until his death. Between 1918 and 1920 Hunter represented King George and Stafford counties in the Virginia House of Delegates, where he was a supporter of Women's Suffrage, compulsory education, and higher education for women, as well as an opponent of Prohibition.

Charles Day

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Carter Warner Wormeley

Carter Warner Wormeley was the advertising and publicity director for Virginia, as well as a former Richmond journalist. Born in 1874, he passed away at the age of 64 in 1938, and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. The Virginia General Assembly awarded him a lifetime appointment as Poet Laureate in 1936. He was the first such appointee in the history of the state.