The 21st Show

Illinois Poet Laureates On Making Poetry More Accessible


Illinois Poet Kevin Stein says one of the perks of his position was to encourage a love of poetry in the young. COURTESY OF BRADLEY UNIVERSITY

Illinois has been home to some of the greatest American poets -- from Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for literature to Carl Sandburg.

They both served as Illinois Poet Laureates.

A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by the government, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions.

Recently, two Illinois towns, Urbana and Aurora, appointed their first poet laureate.

“Essentially when you have a local community poet laureate you have an ambassador for poets,” said Kevin Stein, an Illinois Poet Laureate from 2003 to 2017 and a former professor of English at Bradley University. “You have someone to bring the pleasures of poetry to fresh audiences as well as someone to heighten current devotes appreciation of the artform.”


Kevin Stein, Illinois Poet Laureate from 2003 to 2017

Karen Fulllett-Christensen, inaugural poet laureate of Aurora, Illinois 

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