Poet Laureate

The Maryland Poet Laureate

The Poet Laureate of Maryland is an honorary State position. The selected poet serves at the discretion of the Governor for up to a four-year term renewable by the Governor’s consent. The Poet Laureate provides public readings and programs for the citizens of Maryland, ensuring that people in all geographic regions of the State have access to at least one reading during the term of service. 

In the 18th century, Ebenezer Cooke, author of The Sot-weed Factor: Or, A Voyage to Maryland (1708), called himself Maryland’s first Poet Laureate. However, Maryland’s official Poet Laureate position was formally established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1959 (Chapter 178, Acts of 1959; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-306); this law authorizes the Governor to appoint a citizen of the State as Poet Laureate of Maryland.

Poets Laureate have served the State since the inception of this Act in 1959. Past Poets Laureate include (in order of service): Maria B. Coker, Vincent Godfrey Burns, Lucille Clifton, Reed Whittemore, Linda Pastan, Roland Flint, Michael Collier, Michael Glaser, Stanley Plumly, and Grace Cavalieri.

Grace Cavalieri (2018 - )

Grace Cavalieri was appointed Maryland Poet Laureate on November 7, 2018 by Governor Larry Hogan. Grace Cavalieri is the author of 20 books and chapbooks of poetry, the latest are Other Voices, Other Lives (ASP, 2017;) and Life Upon The Wicked Stage: A Memoir (NAP/Scarith, 2015.) She's also written texts and lyrics performed for opera, television and film and has had 26 plays produced on American stages. Grace teaches poetry workshops throughout the country at numerous colleges. She produced and hosted "The Poet and the Poem," weekly, on WPFW-FM (1977-1997) presenting more than 2,000 poets to the nation. She now presents this series to public radio from the Library of Congress via NPR satellite and Pacifica Radio, celebrating 42 years on air in 2019.

Grace has received the 2013 George Garrett Award, the Pen-Fiction Award, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Silver Medal, and awards from the National Commission on Working Women, the WV Commission on Women, the American Association of University Women, The DC Poet Laureate Award from Dolores Kendrick, the Paterson lifetime Achievement Award, among others. She won a Paterson Excellence Award for What I Would do for Love, and The Bordighera Poetry Prize for Water on the Sun. She received the inaugural Columbia Merit Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library for "significant contributions to poetry."

*Photo credit: Tony Lewis

Grace Cavalieri is available for appearances. Please use the Appearance Request Form to make your request.

Poet Laureate Information

For further information regarding the Maryland Poet Laureate position please contact Keyonna Penick, Poet Laureate Liaison, at keyonna.penick1@maryland.gov.

If you need assistance in using this form, please contact the MSAC office at 410-767-6555 or TDD/TTY: 410-333-4519

  • 1959-1962 Maria Briscoe Coker
  • 1962-1979 Vincent Godfrey Burns
  • 1979-1985 Lucille Clifton
  • 1985-1988 Reed Whittemore
  • 1991-1995 Linda Pastan
  • 1995-2000 Roland Flint
  • 2001-2004 Michael Collier
  • 2004-2008 Michael Glaser
  • 2008-2012 Stanley Plumly

Poet Laureate Projects

Grace Cavalieri, Poet Laureate of Maryland, held monthly poetry workshops in MD starting fall of 2019 for young people “who have something to say and would like to learn how to say it”.

This is a pilot program of 8 one-day workshops throughout Maryland that allows teenagers to get in touch with their inner core/heart, get in touch with who they are, and tell their stories in a safe place. It’s now become apparent that the need to reach teens is paramount. One small way is to go where we can reach them. We just call it “Poetry.”

Below is the basic template used for workshops.

Meditation begins the practice and then a discussion of the four basic necessary elements for a good poem, or work of art:

  • thinking
  • feeling
  • senses
  • intuition

The meaning of each of the four basic elements are discussed. 

The writing session brings the students within themselves by going through the floors of their lives in an elevator. Each floor represents a different year. This takes personal meditation and silence to obtain a story from one of the “Floors”.

The students leave the area to be alone to write what they “saw” on their “floor.” They return in 15 minutes having written from margin to margin just as they “saw” it. Writers then share what they “saw” on their “floor” with the group. Young writers stay with the narrative and just discuss how it becomes a poem.

The students also write a group sonnet and then use an oral tradition to speak in aloud as a “Crowd” poem.  (Horspiel tradition) (as heard on Podcast) 

Students also finish the sentences:  I wish    I wonder    I dream    I am afraid   etc. (as heard on Podcast)

The writers are given 10 words that have no connection, and they connect them into poems and stories (Samples on Podcast.)

Click here to listen. 

Prince Frederick County MD, November 23, 2019:
Our third workshop in this series was held on November 23, in Prince Frederick County at the Calvert Main Library where teens attended the third Poet Laureate workshop.  Thirteen years of age is the youngest age set for participation, with eighteen years as the ideal top range.

During this workshop, teens found space within themselves to explore unknown territory. Through “writing prompts” that evoke interior experience, they recalled and expressed. The creative process is not therapy, although it has healing effects. We do not question why, we simply acknowledge and share, focusing on language, line lengths, and—more than anything—finding the truth in ourselves. Self-discovery is one main value of writing. The product of our writing is the souvenir.

Each student participated in the writing and recording process because Teens want to be SEEN and HEARD!

This workshop was sponsored by the Fund for the Future of our Children and the Maryland Arts Council.

Click here to listen.

Howard County MD, October 12, 2019:

Our second workshop in this series was held on October 12, 2019 in Howard County, Maryland at Howard County Community College.  Six Middle school students ages 13-7 attended the second Poet Laureate workshop. Thirteen years of age is the youngest age set for participation, with eighteen years as the ideal top range.  

Young writers entered the elevator of their inner lives to find their deepest thoughts. They expressed what in this world made them happy, and what made them afraid. They also enjoy “Photo Ops” and “Microphones,” so dominant in our culture.

Each student participated in the writing and recording process because Teens want to be SEEN and HEARD!  

This workshop was sponsored by the Fund for the Future of our Children, the Maryland Arts Council and the Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) founded in 1974.

Click here to listen.

Salisbury MD, Sept 21, 2019:
The first workshop was held on September 21, 2019 in Salisbury, Maryland.  Eight Middle school students attended the inaugural Poet Laureate workshop. They were 8th graders, age 13. Thirteen is the youngest age set for participation.  

Every person participated and they loved the “photo ops” and “recordings’” because Teens want to be SEEN and HEARD!

Click here to listen.

Karren LaLonde Alenier

Listen to Audio Podcast (29:35 minutes)

Karren LaLonde Alenier is author of six collections of poetry, including Looking for Divine Transportation, winner of the 2002 Towson University Prize for Literature, and On a Bed of Gardenias: Jane and Paul Bowles, new from Kattywompus Press. Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On,her jazz opera with composer William Banfield, premiered at New York City’s Symphony Space’s Thalia Theater in June 2005. Composer John Supko is collaborating with her on How Many Midnights, an opera love story about Jane and Paul Bowles. She writes for Scene4 Magazine at scene4.com. She maintains a blog at Alenier.blogspot.com.

Maritza Rivera

Listen to Audio Podcast (28:47 minutes)

Maritza Rivera is a Puerto Rican poet and US Army veteran who has lived in Rockville, MD, since 1994.  Maritza is the creator of a short form of poetry called Blackjack and her work appears in literary magazines, anthologies, and online publications.  She is the author of About You, a collection of poetry “for women and the men they love,” and A Mother’s War, written during her son’s two tours in Iraq to make the intensity of war a reality for everyone. Maritza is a contributor to Poets Responding to SB 1070, participates in the Warrior Poetry Project at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, and serves on the Board of Directors of Split This Rock in Washington, DC.

Edgar Gabriel Silex

Listen to Audio Podcast (55:33 minutes)

Edgar Gabriel Silex is the author of two poetry collections from Curbstone Press, Acts of Love (2004) and Through All The Displacements (1995). Recent work has appeared in Hayden's Ferry ReviewRattle and The New American Poets: A Breadloaf Anthology. Silex has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council. He is a professor of English at the Maryland Institute and College of Art in Baltimore. He lives in Laurel, Md. with his family.

Rose Solari and James J. Patterson

Listen to Audio Podcast (59:00 minutes)

Rose Solari is a poet, writer, and teacher. She is the author of two full-length collections of poems, Orpheus in the Park and Difficult Weather, and two chapbooks of poems, Selections from Myths & Elegies and The Stolen World. Rose wrote and performed in the multimedia play Looking for Guenevere. Rose is a longtime faculty member at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and a member of its Board of Directors. Rose's work appears in Initiate: An Oxford Anthology of New Writing, from Oxford University's Kellogg College Creative Writing Program.

James J. Patterson says of the act he co-founded in the 1980s, The Pheromones, “We were one of the first bands on MTV and one of the last on American Bandstand.” Born half Canadian, and a longtime Washington, D.C. resident, Patterson has been a political satirist, comedian, songwriter, sportswriter, dramatist, performer, and publisher. He now shares his life and the perspectives gleaned from it in his new book of creative non-fiction, Bermuda Shorts.

Sue Ellen Thompson

Listen to Audio Podcast (28:54 minutes)

Sue Ellen Thompson’s fifth book of poetry, They, was published in September 2014. Her work has been included in the Best American Poetry series, read on National Public Radio by Garrison Keillor, and recently won a Pushcart Prize. She taught at Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, Binghamton University, and Central Connecticut State University before moving to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 2006. She now mentors adult poets and teaches workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and Annapolis. She was awarded the 2010 Maryland Author Prize from the Maryland Library Association.

Belle Waring and Walter Cybulski

Listen to Audio Podcast (57:54 minutes)

Belle Waring's first collection, Refuge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), won the Associated Writing Programs’ Award for Poetry in 1989, the Washington Prize in 1991, and was cited by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of 1990. Dark Blonde (Sarabande Books, 1997) won the the 1997 Poetry Center Book Award (San Francisco State University) and the First Annual Larry Levis Reading Prize in 1998. She has received fellowships from the NEA, the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Waring has a background in both nursing and teaching. She is currently a science writer in federal service.

Walter Cybulski works as a preservation librarian and has taught preservation courses at the University of Maryland and Catholic University. As Henry Hoynes Poetry Fellow at UVA, he studied with Gregory Orr and John Moffitt.  Published poems are in AmericaPropagoEyecatcher, and Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry (1981).  His work has been called poetry as witness, observation, and meditation. Critics call his work a poetry of the ordinary and the miraculous, in which the living and the dead emerge from memory and history to participate in a shared voice.

Avideh Shashaani

Listen to Audio Podcast (58:45 minutes)

Avideh Shashaani is the founder and president of the Fund for the Future of our Children (FFC), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to developing innovative educational and multicultural programs that encourage the healthy integration of body, mind and heart in children and youth and empower them to be agents of peace in local and global environments. She promotes intercultural and interfaith understanding through lectures, workshops and publications. She is the author of two books, Promised Paradise (poetic prose) and Remember Me (poetry). She has translated 10 Persian mystical texts into English. She served as vice president of the Literary Friends of the DC Public Library for five years. She is a former co-director of the International Institute for Rehabilitation in Developing Countries (founded by the UN, UNESCO, UNDP and Rehabilitation International). She is the past board chair of Refugee Women in Development and the founding chair of MOSAICA: The Center for Nonprofit Development and Pluralism. She holds a bachelor's degree in experimental psychology, a master's degree in educational planning and management and a Ph.D. in Sufi studies.

David Keplinger

Click here for David Keplinger podcast

David Keplinger is the author of seven poetry books and four volumes of translations from the Danish and German. His most recent books of poems include THE WORLD TO COME (2021), which was awarded the Minds on Fire Open Book Prize from Conduit Books, THE LONG ANSWER: New and Selected Poems (2020), and Another City (2018), which won the 2019 Rilke Prize. In 2020 he was selected for the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America, and in that same year he was a finalist for the National Translation Award. He teaches at American University in Washington, D.C.

Pulitzer Prize Winner William Meredith served as U.S. Consultant In Poetry to The Library Of Congress, 1978-1980, a term now known as U.S. Poet Laureate,

Commentary by Grace Cavalieri

20th Century Poets William Meredith


Josephine Jacobsen was a Canadian-born American poet, short story writer, essayist, and critic. She was appointed the twenty-first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1971. In 1997, she received the Poetry Society of America’s highest award, the Robert Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. Jacobsen lived in Baltimore, MD.

20th Century Poets Josephine Jackson

Click here to view the video. 

Poet Laureate Liaison

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