In ancient times, poets were honored with laurel wreaths. In modern usage, a poet laureate has received the high honor of an appointment by a governmental body to compose poems for state functions. Many states have either official or unofficial poets laureate, and the Library of Congress also names an annual poet laureate who serves as a consultant to the library.

Robert Frost was poet laureate of Vermont when he was tapped to write a poem for President Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. It was one of the most memorable occasions for a poet laureate to leave his mark on history — even if Frost, blinded by the sun, did not read the poem he had composed for the occasion, reciting one from memory instead.

Arthur Mapes was honored as an Indiana Poet Laureate by an Indiana House Concurrent Resolution in 1977. He was one of several dozen poets so honored over previous decades; an unofficial list can be viewed here. The Ephemera page has been updated with a newspaper clipping from his appointment.

In 2002, the Indiana General Assembly voted to make the Poet Laureate a formal state recognition. The poet laureate visits schools, libraries, and other education facilities and serves a two-year term.The current poet laureate in Indiana is Karen Kovacik.

{Sources: Reference, Indiana Arts Commission, U.S. Library of Congress}