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So What Does a Poet Laureate, You Know, Actually Do?

Joseph Bathanti
Joseph Bathanti

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have an official poet laureate; the national Poet Laureate position, established in 1937, carries with it a $35,000 annual stipend.

But what does a poet laureate actually do?

The Indy Week examined this question in the aftermath of Governor Pat McCrory’s unilateral selection of Valerie Macon as North Carolina’s eighth poet laureate last month, which caused a bit of a firestorm in literary circles and made national news. Ms. Macon resigned less than a week into her post.

“It’s crucial that people understand what we do,” says Kathryn Stripling Byer, who was NC Poet Laureate from 2005 to 2009. “The laureateship is not a ceremonial role. It was quite a hands-on job and it was very much a public job.”

Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina’s previous poet laureate, traveled to “45 of the state’s 100 counties, he delivered nine keynote speeches and commencement addresses, judged ten poetry competitions, gave fourteen radio and television interviews plus many more to newspapers and magazines, taught workshops and read at hundreds of public and charter schools, universities, libraries, domestic violence prevention organizations, prisons, retirement communities and veterans’ groups.”

To read the full article, which includes Joseph Bathanti’s poem “The Bull,” click here.

Please note, on Wednesday, August 6, Bathanti offered the following correction:

“I cannot at all take credit for founding the Veterans Writing Collective in Fayetteville. I was merely at the initial meeting, with a number of key players, in Fayetteville at Methodist University. Out of that meeting, the Collective was later formed and all the credit goes to poet and Professor Robin Greene, Paul Stroebel and a number of other hard-working folks at Methodist and in Fayetteville who have brilliantly sustained and nurtured it.”