Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Muse: Arkansas' Poet Laureate

Peggy Vining is the sixth Poet Laureate of Arkansas. She started her term in 2003.

Arkansas created the position in 1923, following the passage of concurrent resolutions by both houses of the state legislature. Charles T. Davis was the first to be named to the post; he served from October 10, 1923, until December 21, 1945. After World War II, another resolution, in 1953, led to the appointment of Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni (March 28, 1953 - March 1970). Following Marinoni's death, Ercil Brown served as interim appointee and was succeeded by Lily Peter (1971 - 1991). Peter was the first to be designated Poet Laureate under state law (Act 90, 1971), which vested in the governor the power to make the appointment. Verna Lee Hinegardner (1991 - 2003) succeeded Peter.

Under state law (Ark. Code, Sec. 1-4-114), the position is honorary and intended to recognize "outstanding accomplishments and contributions in poetry" by an Arkansas resident. It has no specific duties. The governor selects the appointee from a list of recommendations submitted by a committee of the chairs of English departments of all state-supported universities and colleges. 

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Tennessee-born, Peggy Vining moved to Arkansas in 1953 and a decade later joined the Poets' Roundtable of Arkansas, the state's poetry society. She published some her early poems in the Roundtable's anthology and in newspapers throughout central Arkansas. Between 1964 and 1993, Vining devoted herself to teaching at a private school of which she eventually became director. In retirement, she began once more to give time to her writing and directed for 12 years the Ozark Creative Writers Conference and for two years the Arkansas Writers Conference. She also served three terms as president of the Roundtable and a term as president of the Arkansas Pen Women and Arkansas Songwriters Association. She is a member of Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas.

Vining, now 80, is working on what is to become her first book of poetry, Tethered to the Moment. Her poems have been published often in Poets' Roundtable anthologies and in anthologies of poetry organizations outside Arkansas. She credits the Roundtable's poets with mentoring her and inspiring her to write.

Vining has received a number of awards, including the Sybil Nash Abrams Award for "Arkansas, The Wonder State", a seven-sonnet sequence poem (she revised and renamed it "Arkansas, The Natural State"); the poem also was awarded a citation from the state legislature (HCR 1038). In 2008, Vining was cited for and received a lifetime achievement award from the Governor's Arts Awards Council. She also received a Point of Light Award from President Bush.

The Arkansas Poet Laureate Award and the  Caudle Memorial Award are given by Vining under the auspices of Ozark Creative Writers; the latter is in memory of Vining's parents and is awarded for a Shakespearean sonnet.

Also a freelancer, Vining has served on the Ozark Creative Writers board of directors for more than 25 years.


Excluding "Arkansas, The Natural State", I could find no examples of Vining's poems to comment on or share.

Arkansas Poet Laureate

Poets Laureate of Arkansas, from The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

State Page at

Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas


Louise Gallagher said...

Maureen, you make me want to go and find out who our provincial poet laureates are -- I'm pretty sure we've got some.

Inspiring, as always.

Kathleen Overby said...

How do we get you to be one of these, Maureen? :)