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Regents' Professor Alberto Ríos named Arizona's inaugural poet laureate

portrait of Alberto Rios
August 19, 2013

In partnership with the Office of the Governor and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona State University is pleased to announce that celebrated poet and Regents’ Professor, Alberto Ríos, has been named the inaugural poet laureate for the state of Arizona.

Arizona’s poet laureate post commemorates and honors the wealth of Arizona literary artists who, through their work and service, represent Arizona’s values, independence, storied history and boundless potential. With this appointment, Arizona becomes the 43rd state in the nation to establish a poet or writer laureate position.

“I am proud to announce the appointment of Arizona’s first poet laureate, in celebration of our state’s remarkable literary history and future. Alberto Ríos demonstrates an unmatched dedication and love for the art of poetry. For more than four decades, his poetry and literary works have touched our communities and kept Arizona’s culture and heritage alive. As poet laureate for the state of Arizona, Alberto will champion the art of American poetry, inspire an emerging generation of literary artists and educate Arizonans of all ages about the countless writers who have positively influenced our beautiful state,” said Governor Jan Brewer.

Ríos has individual works in more than 300 journals and more than 250 anthologies, and has been honored with numerous awards – including the Walt Whitman Award in Poetry, bestowed by The Academy of American Poets, the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the Arizona Literary Treasure Award and a Governor's Arts Award. Ríos has also led countless community projects in cities and towns across Arizona. 

Ríos received both his bachelor's and master's in creative writing from the University of Arizona. As a full-tenured professor in the Department of English at ASU, Ríos was subsequently awarded the highest rank distinction the university system in Arizona can bestow, Regents’ Professor. He is also the Katherine C. Turner Chair in English in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has been with ASU since 1982.

Ríos said of his appointment as Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate, “This is a profound honor. A small-town border kid from Nogales to poet laureate – this is a good story, an Arizona story. As the state’s first poet laureate, the work of inventing this job is now at hand, and I’m very much looking forward to the adventure. The poet laureate designation is an important way for Arizona and its people to express a public regard for the well-written word. I would like to be part of that statement, a line in that poem.”

The purpose of the poet laureate post is to champion the art of American poetry, inspire an emerging generation of literary artists and educate Arizonans of all ages about the countless writers who have positively influenced our state.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts, an agency of the State of Arizona, facilitated the nomination and selection process in fall 2012. Nominations were open to the public, and self-nominations were accepted. In total, eight nominations were received. All nominees were reviewed by a committee chaired by three governor-appointed commissioners from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. As specified in SB1348, the review committee included representatives from literary publishing organizations, educational institutions, arts and culture organizations, businesses that present or support the literary arts, and poets not wishing to be considered for the position, from Northern, Central and Southern Arizona.

Ríos will serve a term of two years; he will offer public readings throughout the year, in both urban and rural communities in various regions of the state, and will pursue a major literary project over the course of the appointment term. Public events to celebrate the appointment of Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate will be announced in fall 2013. 

For more information about the grants, services and programs of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, visit