What’s Love Got To Do With It?


Nothing against the new U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall — I’m sure he’s due, well-qualified, palatable to the masses, etc. Alas, there were no worthwhile poets of the other gender available for the position? Any recommendations?

And I won’t even get into race … So without further ado, for the love of poetry:

U.S. Poet Laureate Timeline [1937 – 2006 = 36 Men and 8 Women]

1937-1941 — Joseph Auslander
1943-1944 — Allen Tate
1944-1945 –Robert Penn Warren
1945-1946 — Louise Bogan
1946-1947 — Karl Shapiro
1947-1948 — Robert Lowell
1948-1949 — Leonie Adams
1949-1950 — Elizabeth Bishop
1950 – 1952 — Conrad Aiken
1952 — William Carlos Williams
1956-1958 — Randall Jarrell
1958-1959 — Robert Frost
1959-1961 — Richard Eberhart
1961-1963 — Louis Untermeyer
1963-1964 — Howard Nemerov
1964-1965 — Reed Whittemore
1965-1966 — Stephen Spender
1966-1968 — James Dickey
1968-1970 — William Jay Smith
1970-1971 — William Stafford
1971-1973 — Josephine Jacobsen
1973-1974 — Daniel Hoffman
1974-1976 — Stanley Kunitz
1976-1978 — Robert Hayden
1978-1980 — William Meredith
1981-1982 — Maxine Kumin
1982-1984 — Anthony Hecht
1984-1985 — Robert Fitzgerald
1984-1985 — Reed Whittemore
1985-1986 — Gwendolyn Brooks
1986-1987 — Robert Penn Warren
1987-1988 — Richard Wilbur
1988-1990 — Howard Nemerov
1990-1991 — Mark Strand
1991-1992 — Joseph Brodsky
1992-1993 — Mona Van Duyn
1993-1995 — Rita Dove
1995-1997 — Robert Hass
1997-2000 — Robert Pinsky
1999-2000 — Special Bicentennial Consultants, 1999-2000: Rita Dove, Louise Glück, and W.S. Merwin
2000-2001 — Stanley Kunitz
2001-2003 — Billy Collins
2003-2004 — Louise Glück
2004-2006 — Ted Kooser
2006 — Donald Hall

In other news, Adam Fieled and I chat it up over at PFS Post. Live long and prosper, people!

3 Responses to “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

  1. Christine Hamm Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 4:43 pm eHey, you know what this shows?

    Women are just not as good as men.

  2. charles alexander Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 5:39 pm elynhejiniankathleenfraserericahuntharryettemullendianediprimaannewaldmanlisajarnotelenisikelianosstacydorisjennifermoxleywandacolemansoniasanchezjaynecortezmeimeiberssenbrugge
  3. Dan Coffey Says:
    June 15th, 2006 at 6:50 pm eWell, since Hall subsumed the poetic spirit of his late wife, it’s almost as good as a 9th female PL, isn’t it?
  4. mairead Says:
    June 16th, 2006 at 2:58 am eI think Lucille Clifton would be good, if she was willing.
  5. susana Says:
    June 16th, 2006 at 3:24 am eHmmm. Very interesting post Amy. I concur & who appoints these people anyway? Since Louise Glück & Rita Dove served two appointments does this mean they count twice?

    I think they’re are many fabulous female-poets who would qualify, but we would also have to think like they think in terms of who we might suggest.

    I agree, Lucille Clifton is a great suggestion. Carolyn Forche too, perhaps.

    And why hasn’t Adrienne Rich ever served? There surely must be a reason….

  6. EL Says:
    June 17th, 2006 at 4:20 pm eI’m glad you posted on this. Like I said on my own blog, it’s not like Hall sucks or anything, it’s just that there are so many kick-ass female poets and poets of color, I just wish we’d see ‘em in this role.

    I suspect it relates to the “universality” issue, which is as concerning as the lack of women and people of color as PL in general.

  7. Slant Truth » Blog Archive » Don’t Call It A Comeback… Says:
    June 17th, 2006 at 6:08 pm e[…] Alas, a Blog: A Funny Little Story and a Bunch-o-Links Amy King: What’s Love Got to do With it? (Ummm…yeah. Where are the women and POC?) […]
  8. Jessica Says:
    June 18th, 2006 at 10:39 pm e“Why hasn’t Adrienne Rich ever served? There surely must be a reason”
    I think the reason is… it’s a patriarchy? Patriarchies aren’t so fond of people who don’t fit into the heterosexual hegemony.

    I think Cole Swenson should be Poet Laureat(t)e. And it would be ok, you see, because she’s lovely, graceful, and charming so she seems non-threatening to the Crown. But we know she’s on our side. Alice Notley might be able to slip in under the radar too. Most of the people you suggest, Charles Alexander, although fine poets, would just never have a chance at such a position. The Poet Laureate is just a projection of the established power. I think that to alter such a position (thus making the tiniest proxy stab at the Power) one has to send in spies–people that look innocent but aren’t.

  9. Amy King Says:
    June 19th, 2006 at 2:20 pm eSwenson would make a wonderful PL; however, I wonder if she would meet the generic criteria by which the Librarian of Congress makes *his* selections:

    “The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress serves as the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.”

    Who will best “raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry” and who can stand in as “the nation’s official lightning rod…” is currently determined by Dr. James H. Billington. How he makes his decisions is not noted.

    Another problem, I think, is that women aren’t involved in these offices and this type of politics enough (see my link to Paul Hoover’s blog in the next day’s brief entry).

    Finally, Robin Kemp has noted Rich’s politically-influenced acceptances on a listserv — I’ll paste her excerpt here:

    ‘In 1974, she received the National Book Award (Diving Into the Wreck),
    which she refused as an individual but accepted “on behalf of all
    women.” In 1997, she turned down the National Medal for the Arts in retaliation to the U.S. House’s July 1997 vote to end the National Endowment for the Arts, claiming: “Art is our human birthright. Like government, art needs the participation of the many in order not to become the property of a powerful and narrowly self-interested minority.” ‘

    Source: http://www.csindy.com/csindy/1999-09-23/ispy.html

    Anyway, I’m sure Hall makes some folks happy, but it’d be nice if Rich’s last sentiment felt enacted … not much range in the last few laureates.

  10. Amy King Says:
    June 19th, 2006 at 2:25 pm eWhoops. I meant to reference this entry on Paul Hoover’s blog, “Sylvia Plath and Tuna Salad (not the political one I linked to in the next entry)… anyone, his post dealing with some of the determining factors of canonization, which is obviously related to holding the big PL office too:


  11. Dan Coffey Says:
    June 22nd, 2006 at 3:53 pm eThis may get me kicked out of the club, but until Saturday when I was browsing at the Des Moines Borders (which all of a sudden has vastly improved its poetry section), I didn’t know Cole Swensen was a woman.

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