Southeastern writer-in-residence and award-winning poet Alison Pelegrin named next Louisiana Poet Laureate
Published 9:30 am Sunday, August 6, 2023
New Orleans, Louisiana — The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, along with Gov. John Bel Edwards, is proud to announce Louisiana’s newest Poet Laureate, Alison Pelegrin. Following Mona Lisa Saloy’s successful tenure as Poet Laureate from 2021 through August 13 of this year, Pelegrin will assume the post beginning August 14 and serve for two years.
“The Poet Laureate acts as Louisiana’s literary ambassador, and Alison’s long record of teaching, sharing, and producing poetry that engages readers makes her a perfect fit as the preeminent poet of our state,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Her work is both beautifully crafted and appeals to a broad range of readers, and it will undoubtedly help elevate poetry in the public consciousness. She has been celebrated both statewide and nationally for good reason. Congratulations to Alison on this well-deserved honor.”
Pelegrin, a Covington resident, is Writer-in-Residence at Southeastern Louisiana University and the author of “Our Lady of Bewilderment” (LSU Press, 2022), “Waterlines” (LSU Press, 2016), “Hurricane Party” (University of Akron Press, 2011) and “Big Muddy River of Stars” (University of Akron Press, 2007), which was the winner of the 2006 Akron Poetry Prize. Her chapbook “Our Lady of the Flood” won the Diode 2018 chapbook prize and an Eric Hoffer Award.
“Celebrated nationally and locally, Alison’s poetry appeals to a broader audience than poets usually enjoy,” said Carolyn Hembree, associate professor of English and creative writing at the University of New Orleans, in her letter of support for Pelegrin’s nomination. “Her wit and imagination awe all readers, while her deft use of fixed forms impresses critics and academics. She doesn’t sound like anyone else.”
Pelegrin is the recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and an ATLAS Grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents. Her work has appeared in Bennington Review, The Southern Review and Ninth Letter and as printable broadsides at Broadsided. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Southeastern, where she went on to teach for 20 years, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from University of Arkansas.
“It would be impossible for me to detail how the wisdom and graciousness of previous poets laureate has impacted me as a writer and person,” said Pelegrin. “To have my name listed with theirs is a great honor.”
As Louisiana Poet Laureate for the next two years, Pelegrin will travel the state encouraging fellow Louisianans to explore and engage with poetry. In addition to Saloy, previous recent poets laureate include John Warner Smith, Jack Bedell, Brenda Marie Osbey, Darrell Bourque, Julie Kane, Ava Leavell Haymon and Peter Cooley.
“Chasing the poetry that bursts from every landscape and community in Louisiana is joyous work for me as both writer and teacher, and I look forward to visiting libraries, museums and community centers to spread the word,” said Pelegrin. “Louisiana is rich with poetry and poets, and I want to be sure everyone knows.”
According to selection guidelines, nominees must have published works in books, anthologies, literary journals or magazines. In addition, the selection committee must seek information from the general public and the literary community. The committee must select nominees who reflect the diverse cultures and heritage of Louisiana.
Under state law, the LEH is charged with overseeing the Poet Laureate nomination process. This year’s nomination panel included outgoing Poet Laureate Mona Lisa Saloy; past poets laureate Bedell, Bourque and Haymon; LSU Press Director and Publisher of the Southern Review Alisa Plant; LEH Executive Director and President Miranda Restovic; and LEH Vice President of Public Programs Erin Greenwald.
The Poet Laureate will be available for public programming, including readings, workshops and lectures, at venues across Louisiana during her tenure. Sites that wish to host the Poet Laureate can visit https://leh.org/our-work/special-initiatives/louisiana-poet-laureate/ for details on criteria and the application.
“Poetry is an expression of the human experience, often at its most intimate, or painful, or beautiful, or inspiring,” said Restovic. “The LEH is proud to be a champion for the humanities—which is at its most fundamental the documentation and interpretation of the human experience—and we look forward to supporting Alison as she embarks on her journey as our state’s next Poet Laureate.”
About Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all residents of the state. Guided by the vision that everyone can realize their full potential through the humanities, LEH partners with communities, institutions and individuals to provide grant-supported outreach programs, literacy initiatives for all ages, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, public lectures, library projects, 64 Parishes magazine and other diverse public humanities programming. For more information, visit www.leh.org.
Editor’s note: a high resolution version of the photo of Pelegrin above is available via Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/y8cz0pez4l5eg31jm6pkk/h?rlkey=5ep8cc7gllg8fiu397npk6vxi&dl=0. additional images or interviews, contact LEH Marketing and Sales Director Lauren Noel at email@example.com or (504) 620-2636.