Catherine Pierce named Mississippi’s Poet Laureate


Catherine Pierce – environmental portrait with water behind.
(photo by Megan Bean / © Mississippi State University)

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WJTV) – Gov. Tate Reeves appointed poet and educator Catherine Pierce, of Starkville, as Mississippi’s Poet Laureate. She will serve as the official state poet for a term of four years.

The state’s Poet Laureate creates and reads appropriate poetry at state occasions, promotes literacy and represents the rich cultural heritage of Mississippi. An English professor at Mississippi State University, Pierce co-directs MSU’s creative writing program and has published four books of poems and a chapbook.

“It is with great pleasure that the First Lady and I announce Catherine Pierce of Starkville as Mississippi’s Poet Laureate,” said Reeves. “We are confident Dr. Pierce will continue to foster a love of poetry and literature throughout Mississippi in this role.”

Pierce joined the faculty at Mississippi State University in 2007. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections including Danger Days (2020), The Tornado Is the World (2016), The Girls of Peculiar (2012) and Famous Last Words (2008), all from Saturnalia Books. A chapbook, Animals of Habit (Kent State University Press), was published in 2004.

Pierce received a 2019 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and two Pushcart Prizes in 2019 and 2021. Each of her most recent three books won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Prize; Famous Last Words won the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Her work has also been recognized with two Literary Artist Fellowships from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

“I am honored and genuinely thrilled to have been named the next Poet Laureate of Mississippi, and to have the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for poetry and the literary arts,” said Pierce. “I’ve long counted myself tremendously lucky to be a part of Mississippi’s dynamic community of writers and artists and citizens, and I am so looking forward to continuing to connect with people across our state, to working with our excellent arts and literary organizations and our incredible educators, and to helping amplify the voices of Mississippians.”

Pierce succeeds Beth Ann Fennelly, of Oxford, as the state’s Poet Laureate.

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