In 1933, the Texas Legislature created the post of Texas Poet Laureate. The post was filled continuously until 1981. Since then the post has been vacant all but a handful of years. The last Poet Laureate left the post in 1994. This project is an effort to convince Austin that the post is important and that Texans want someone in the post.
According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission:
Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 82, 43rd Legislature, Regular Session (1933) authorized appointment of a committee by the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House to designate an outstanding and recognized poet, who is also a citizen of the state of Texas, as poet laureate.
Beginning in 1932 --a year before the post was authorized-- a Texan served in the post continuously until 1981. Since then the post has been vacant all but a handful of years. And the last left the post in 1994. We have a full list of past Poets Laureate.
Elected in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, the current Governor, George W. Bush, has not nominated a Texas Poetry Laureate during his tenure in the Governor's office.
Texas is a great state with a long tradition of poets, a vibrant poetry community and many wonderful poets. Texas needs a Texas Poet Laureate.
The long tradition of poets in Texas need an advocate so they're not forgotten. I doubt many people know anything of the long tradition of poets in Texas and the role, often integral role, they've played in the community. For instance, the Dallas Morning News has included poetry since it's earliest days. The writings on poets can be seen on monuments and memorials around the state. And today, they read and perform in libraries, schools, stores, events and nightspots.
The current Texas poetry scene is an active and vibrant one, with many phenomenal poets. Names like Naomi Shihab Nye, Robert Trammel and Frederick Turner come to mind immediately. Events like the Austin International Poetry Festival, Arts and Letters Live and last year's National Poetry Slam bring these voices together many times a year. And publications like Borderlands the Best of Texas Anthology series, Kentecloth and our own the Word: the monthly guide to the Arts in Dallas take theses voices out to the world.
It's an incredibly active group. In any given metropolitan area in Texas, on any night of the week, you're likely to be able go to at least one reading. And that community needs a voice that speaks for it to Texans.
Beyond the state's boundaries, there's a perception that Texans are many things. Say Texas and the world thinks J.R., the Cowboys, the Alamo, Oil and Ross Perot. But, there's more to the state than that. Poetry is part of that tradition and the rest of the world should know more about that.