It is an honorary title, originating from the ancient Greeks' practice of crowning their artists and athletes with laurels. Poet laureate programs vary by locale, with poets serving a tradition of advancing the knowledge and enjoyment of literary arts through public readings, education, and community events.
The position of poet laureate began in the middle ages in England, when Ben Jonson received that honor in 1616. Remarkably, California had the first poet laureate in the United States, honoring Ina Donna Coolbrith in 1915 through 1928. Currently, 40 states have state poets laureate.
The United States adopted the idea of a national poet laureate in 1937, officially called "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress," then to "Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry" in 1986. In fall 2008, Northern California poet Kay Ryan succeeded Charles Simic as the 16th U.S. poet laureate.
California, and the greater Bay Area in particular, has had rapidly growing laureate programs. The nine-county area has more than half of the state's local (county, district, or city) poets laureate. In 2001, Governor Gray Davis created the official position for the State of California, with a specific term, clear public responsibilities, and stipend. Juan Felipe Herrera is the current State of California poet laureate.
The City of Dublin currently does not have a poet laureate.