State Poet Laureate

In 1963, Virginia established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Luisa A. Igloria, who was appointed to a two-year term in 2020. Igloria is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, 2020).


In 2022, Zeina Azzam became the poet laureate of Alexandria, Virginia. 

Arlington County

In 2020, Holly Karapetkova was appointed poet laureate of Arlington County. 

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Virginia poet laureaute
Luisa A. Igloria

Originally from Baguio, Philippines, Luisa A. Igloria is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, 2020), co-winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Poetry Prize, and the chapbook What is Left of Wings, I Ask, winner of the Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Poetry Chapbook Prize selected by Natasha Trethewey. In 2015, she was the inaugural winner of the Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry. A Louis I. Jaffe Professor and University Professor of English and Creative Writing, she teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. Igloria also leads workshops at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, and was appointed as the Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2020. In 2021, she received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.

Luisa A. Igloria

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Virginia Evening

Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg,
cluster of lights sharpening
as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge
darkened. Not stars
but blue-black mountains rose
before me, rose like sleep
after hours of driving, hundreds of miles
blurred behind me. My eyelids
were so heavy but I could see
far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing,
lightning sparking from cloud
to mountaintop. I drove toward it,
into the pass at Ironto, the dark
now deeper in the long steep grades,
heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted
with evergreens, with spruce, pine,
and cedar. How I wished to sleep
in that sweet air, which filled--
suddenly over a rise--with the small
lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere
they drifted, sweeping from the trees
down to the highway my headlights lit.
Fireflies blinked in the distance
and before my eyes, just before
the windshield struck them and they died.
Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass
their bodies clung like buds bursting
the clean line of a branch in spring.
How long it lasted, how many struck
and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic
stare fixed on the road ahead, I can't say.
Beyond them, beyond their swarming
bright deaths came the rain, a shower
which fell like some dark blessing.
Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on
what an eerie glowing beauty faced me.
In that smeared, streaked light
diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen
my face. It was weary, shocked, awakened,
alive with wonder far after the blades and rain
swept clean the light of those lives
passed, like stars rolling over
the earth, now into other lives.


I’m older than my father when he turned
bright gold and left his body with its used-up liver
in the Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plain. I don’t
believe in the afterlife, don’t know where he is
now his flesh has finished rotting from his long
bones in the Jewish Cemetery—he could be the only
convert under those rows and rows of headstones. 
Once, washing dishes in a narrow kitchen
I heard him whistling behind me. My nape froze. 
Nothing like this has happened since. But this morning
we were on a plane to Virginia together. I was 17,
pregnant and scared. Abortion was waiting,
my aunt’s guest bed soaked with blood, my mother
screaming—and he was saying Kids get into trouble— 
I’m getting it now: this was forgiveness.
I think if he’d lived he’d have changed and grown
but what would he have made of my flood of words
after he’d said in a low voice as the plane
descended to Richmond in clean daylight
and the stewardess walked between the rows
in her neat skirt and tucked-in blouse
Don’t ever tell this to anyone.

America (Assateague)

America, Every explorer names his island Formosa, beautiful
For being first, he alone, Walker Percy tells us, has access to it
and can see it for what it is. And doesn’tevery child call
its imagined pony by its secret name? A word to summon a large
& gentle wildness from empty air, its long face & warm breath
visible in that moment before it touches its muzzle to the dreaming
brow. In one metaphor, America, the tips of your right hand
might be The Aleutians; those of your left, The Florida Keys.

Today, everyone has come to see the horses, who have been here
for four hundred years. In myth, they descend from of a herd
brought on a Spanish galleon & swim ashore to their astonishing
freedom after the ship hits a sandbar in a storm & goes down.
America, this is a scene you have seen before: a dark hull of flesh.
Or they are the descendants of horses set out to graze by farmers
& inexplicably forgotten. You are an assemblage. Natural.
Unnatural. So little of you is not from somewhere else.

In the woods, where we cannot see them, the small spotted elk
from Taiwan—renamed deer, though their DNA would reveal
that that is not what they are—are settling down to sleep. The sky
& marsh purple & flood with the perfectly familiar: the bat,
the house mouse, the raccoon, the Norway rat, the least shrew,
the meadow jumping mouse, the possum, the fox, the vole.

And birds: eagles, ospreys, egrets, merlins & mallards, pin-tails
& even the remarkable & invasive Canada geese. So that
if I were pulled from my bed in the night to identify your body,
I might look here, to this island, half-north, half-south, as one does
to the pale, beloved & often-fingered freckle on the cocked hip
of a lover, where, even in twilight, a band of feral horses stirs
in the cordgrass & briar. The last light awing around their dark
eyes is an elegy to that species of shouting wonder emitted only
by toddlers before our wonder falls silent & reverential. Animals,
John Berger asserts, first entered the imagination not as leather
or meat but as messengers and promises, an elegy, or an augur,
for our tongues, before both our desire & outrage became crude.