Our Work

Louisiana Poet Laureate

Supporting Louisiana’s vibrant and thriving poetry scene

As Louisiana’s literary ambassador for two years, the Poet Laureate travels the state encouraging fellow Louisianans to explore and engage with poetry.

The LEH oversees the Louisiana Poet Laureate nomination process in partnership with the Governor of Louisiana and sponsors Poet Laureate public programming in libraries, museums, schools, community centers, and other non-profit cultural institutions throughout the state.

Recent Poets Laureates include John Warner Smith (current), Jack Bedell, Brenda Marie Osbey, Darrell Bourque, Julie Kane, Ava Leavell Haymon, and Peter Cooley. For a full list of Louisiana Poet Laureates, click here.

2019–2021 Louisiana Poet Laureate, John Warner Smith

John Warner Smith, a native of Morgan City, began writing poetry while simultaneously building a successful career as a public administrator and a banker. He now teaches English at Southern University in Baton Rouge, in addition to regularly publishing new works of poetry. Since 2007, he has directed Education’s Next Horizon, a nonprofit policy advocacy organization dedicated to improving public education in Louisiana.

Smith earned his MFA at the University of New Orleans, is a fellow of Cave Canem, and was awarded a prestigious Laureate Fellowship by the American Academy of Poets. He has published four collections of poetry, with a fifth collection scheduled to be released this year. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals across the country, including Ploughshares, Callaloo, North American Review, and Missouri Review. Much of his poetry draws upon African American history and his personal experiences of growing up and living in the South.

Do you want to bring the Poet Laureate to your town?

Submissions must be of interest to general public audiences. Events must be open to the general adult public. Programs designed strictly for school-age children are ineligible. Typical Poet Laureate programs include lectures, readings, and workshops.

Potential programming applicants should contact Grants Manager Christopher Robert to secure detailed information on preparing the brief application. Applications are approved in consultation with the Poet Laureate. The LEH requires that project proposals be submitted at least six weeks before the event start date.

Smith is primarily available for programming on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

NOTE: Grant funds are now awarded directly to the Poet Laureate from the LEH.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applications must be submitted at least six weeks prior to the planned event. For access to the Poet Laureate application, please contact Grants Manager Christopher Robert.

*Due to the ongoing public health crisis related to COVID-19, all events are subject to change. Please check with event organizers for the most up-to-date information.

Event: Festival of Words 2020, Reading / Workshop
Sponsoring Organization: Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective
Location: Chicory’s Cafe, 219 E Martin Luther King Drive, Grand Coteau, LA 70541
Date: November 6 and 7, 2020
Time: TBA