Interested in official poets? You may need a map. In the United States alone, notably since the 1990s, there’s a great national forest of them. The Librarian of Congress nominates the best-known one, the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. But forty-five U.S. states also have them; most of these positions are relatively new. So do the District of Columbia (though the seat is currently empty) and, since 1981, the Overseas Territory of Guam. Many of the 2,000-plus American counties have them. Cities and towns have them. Foundations have them. Churches have them. National Parks have them. The list doesn’t end there.
According to the NEA-Census Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, as of 2017 about one in eight Americans read any poetry that year, counting works published online. Granted that the figure doesn’t count attendance at readings or slams or other performances, live or on YouTube or otherwise, it's still far below the rate for movies (58.6%) or prose fiction (41.8%). But our national, state, county, and municipal governments haven’t, as yet, anointed thousands of official filmmakers or novelists. Even Hollywood is a lot older than the position of U.S. Poet Laureate. So why poets?
Official poets generally serve short terms, and perhaps significantly, are paid little or nothing. In exchange for what amounts to an unheard-of (for most poets) form of publicity, they are expected to perform certain public and generally teacherly and often activist duties. Is there a quid pro quo? The Academy of American Poets, “the nation's largest membership-based nonprofit organization advocating for American poets and poetry,” even publishes what amounts to a set of guidelines for those jurisdictions and organizations still looking to acquire an official bard or bards. (The most interesting takeaway: a state official poet, on average, is worth four city poets.)
The DMV has (or in the case of the national Laureate, oversees) its own share of offices. Here are the ones I was able to track down. The newest are listed first:
Estab. / Patron -- Current Poet (term)
2018 Prince George’s County -- J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford* (2018-)
2014 Prince William County -- Natalie Potell (2018-)
2005 Takoma Park, MD -- Kathleen O’Toole (2018-)
1998 Montgomery County -- Cathleen Cohen (2019-)
1984 District of Columbia -- (vacant since the death of Dolores Kendrick in 2017)
1979 Alexandria, VA -- KaNikki Jakarta (2019-)
1959 Maryland -- Grace Cavalieri (2018-)
1937 United States -- Joy Harjo (2019-)
1936 Virginia -- Henry Hart (2018-)
*According to her web site, retrieved 24 July 2019, Ms. Matthews Alford is also, since 2016, the Poet Laureate of Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, MD.
Arlington, Virginia? It had a poet between 2016 and 2018, when the office was eliminated. Katherine E. Young was its first and, to date, only Poet Laureate. However, the position will soon be restored.