CCT: Connecticut Poet Laureate

Connecticut Poet Laureate

The honorary position of Connecticut Poet Laureate was established in 1985 by the State of Connecticut.  As the state's representative poet, the Poet Laureate serves as an advocate for poetry and promotes the appreciation of and participation in poetry and literary arts activities among Connecticut citizens. 



State Poet Laureate for 2015 - 2020 is Rennie McQuilkin
Rennie McQuilkin, has an extensive background participating in poetry readings and workshops in Connecticut, and beyond, has had a distinguished literary career with several published full-length collections of poetry. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, The Yale Review, Yankee, The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The North American Review, The American Scholar, and many other publications.
{R.McQuilkin} He was recently awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Connecticut Center for the Book, which also awarded him its Book Award for Poetry. In addition, he was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship along with several fellowships from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and has received many other honors and awards.


“My passion to serve as the Connecticut Poet Laureate is rooted in my experience as the poet laureate for Simsbury,” said McQuilkin. “I plan to support the Coalition of Local Poets Laureate in its efforts to encourage more towns and cities throughout the state to establish poet laureate positions and to further support the work of local poets. I also plan to encourage local access television stations to emulate Simsbury’s SCTV in creating poetry series as part of their regular programming.”


Connecticut is home to one of the nation’s premier poetry events, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, five summer events featuring poetry, music, and writing workshops in and around the Hill-Stead Museum’s circa-1920 Beatrix Farrand-designed garden. McQuilkin co-founded the festival and served as the director from 1992-2000.


Currently, McQuilkin is the publisher and editor of Antrim House Books that publishes the work of Connecticut poets and provides greater exposure and access to the work of local poets.

Photo Credit: Pit Pinegar


Review Process: Selection for the state poet laureate is administered by the COA and involves a review process with three professional panelists who assess the applicants for their reputation and distinction within the field of poetry; quality of the poet’s work; and commitment to fostering appreciation and participation in poetry. This year’s panelists were Tom Chandler, former poet laureate of Rhode Island and a professor of creative writing Bryant University; Christine Casson, a Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College; and Rachel Hadas, an author of several books of poetry, prose, and translations and a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Past State Poet Laureates
2010-2015 Dick Allen
2007-2010 John Hollander
2001-2006 Marilyn Nelson

1996-2001 Leo Connellan
1985-1995 James Merrill 
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