The state of Virginia has a new Poet Laureate as of yesterday: Henry Hart of William and Mary was sworn in through a ceremony that included readings from previous Laureate and Norfolk resident Tim Seibles.
Hart is the Hickman Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary, In the course of his new role, he will serve as the ambassador and chief promoter of Virginia Poetry. He has previously published three full length collections of poetry: The Ghost Ship (1990), The Rooster Mask (1998), and Background Radiation (2007). Additionally he is well known for critical works on such poets as Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, and Robert Lowell. He served as editor for the James Dickey Reader (1999) and his biography -- James Dickey: The World as a Lie (2000) is highly regarded as definitive on the subject. It was a finalist in nonfiction for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. Hart's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, Sewanee Review, Denver Quarterly, and numerous other journals. In 2010 he won the Carole Weinstein Prize for Poetry.
Hart will serve a term of two years as Poet Laureate. The selection process gathers nominations from the membership of the Poetry Society of Virginia, which then presents several names to the Governor for final selection. The Poetry Society, one of the oldest such groups in the country, has operated since 1923. The state of Virginia has had a Poet Laureate consistently since 1936, when former Richmond Times-Dispatch journalist, Carter Warner Wormeley, was appointed for a lifetime term that ended upon his death in 1938. Henry Hart is Virginia's 19th Laureate.
Seibles takes a moment to look over his poems.
Poets Laureate Emeritus Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda and Ron Smith chat before the ceremony.
Hart chats with fans before the event.
Seibles completes his final reading as Laureate before stepping away from the podium into emeritus status.
Hart speaks about how his parents were often not sure of his career as a wordsmith. "My father could never understand how he had sent an athlete off to college, and got back a poet!"
Hart takes his oath of office.
Seibles watches as Hart is sworn in.
The signing of a certificate completes the ceremony and makes it official.
Hart reads his first poem as the new Laureate.
Notable Virginia poet, Bill Glose.
Caroyln Kreiter-Foronda watches with her husband (left) and Poetry Society of Virginia President, Robert P. Arthur (right).
The event drew a decently sized crowd, with First Lady of Virginia, Pam Northam, in attendance.
Hart concludes his reading before leaving the event to fulfill the the duties of his office over the next two years.
Four prior laureates were in attendance for the ceremony -- in order of left to right: Sofia Starnes, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Ron Smith, and Tim Seibles pose with Henry Hart.