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Louisiana’s new poet laureate was once state labor secretary

August 10, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has a new poet laureate, with a background well beyond fine arts.

John Warner Smith’s tenure in the two-year position begins Wednesday. He teaches English at Southern University in Baton Rouge and has published four collections of poetry since 2015.

But before that, Smith worked as Louisiana labor secretary under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and has been a banker. He has degrees in fine arts, business administration, psychology and accounting.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities announced Smith’s selection. Edwards described Smith’s poetry as passionate and called him a “trailblazer” who is devoted to education.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities managed the nomination and selection process for the position. Smith takes over from Jack Bedell, who has been Louisiana’s poet laureate since 2017.

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