Showcasing the Arts

Kentucky Poet Laureate History

The position of Kentucky Poet Laureate was originally established in 1926 by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly. James T. "Cotton" Noe was selected for the position. Prior to 1990, poets laureate were appointed to lifetime terms by the General Assembly. At times several people held the position simultaneously.

In 1990, new legislation was enacted (KRS 153.600) to provide for the gubernatorial appointment of a state poet laureate for a two-year term. The Kentucky Poet Laureate's duties include promoting the literary arts and leading the state in literary activities, including Kentucky Writers'; Day (KRS 153.620), which is celebrated annually on April 24 to commemorate the birthday of Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren, the first poet laureate of the United States.

The Kentucky Poet Laureate is selected following a public call for nominations coordinated by the Kentucky Arts Council. Nominees for this position must reside in Kentucky, have a long association with the Commonwealth, and have a critically acclaimed published body of work that is informed by living in Kentucky. The word "poet" in the position's title is interpreted in its broadest sense to include writers whose accomplishments are in any literary form. An independent panel reviews the nominations and submits its recommendation to the Governor for appointment.

The new poet laureate is usually inducted on April 24 of odd-numbered years in conjunction with Kentucky Writers' Day celebrations.

Kentucky Poets Laureate

J.T. “Cotton” Noe
Edward G. Hill*
Louise Phillips
Edwin Carlisle Litsey
Jesse Hilton Stuart
Lowell Allen Williams
Lillie D. Chaffin
    (Associate Poet Laureate)
Senator Tom Mobley
Agnes O’Rear
Soc Clay
Lee Pennington
Paul Salyers
Dale Faughn
Jim Wayne Miller
Henry E. Pilkenton
James H. Patton, Jr.
James Still*
Joy Bale Boone*
1999-2000    Richard Taylor*
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2001-2002    James Baker Hall*
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2003-2004    Joe Survant*
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2005-2006    Sena Jeter Naslund*
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2007-2008    Jane Gentry*
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2009-2010    Gurney Norman*
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2011-2012    Maureen Morehead*
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2013-2014    Frank X Walker*
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2015-2016    George Ella Lyon*
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Frederick Smock
2017-2018    Frederick Smock*
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Jeff Worley
2019-2020    Jeff Worley*
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Crystal Wilkinson
2021-2022    Crystal Wilkinson*
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Silas House
2023-2024    Silas House*
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* Gubernatorial Appointment
   Source: Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the Kentucky Arts Council.