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.
Past Poets Laureate
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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, 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 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.
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 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 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.
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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.