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Poet in the Public Eye

Following in the footsteps of giants like Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks requires a bit of poetic prowess. Fortunately Kevin Stein, Illinois' newest Poet Laureate, is up to the task.

Stein was chosen as Poet Laureate in 2003, with a promise to make poetry more available and more accessible to the public.

The English professor from Peoria's Bradley University has been living up to that promise, presenting his poems to students of all ages, reading his work online and over the radio – even leading poetry workshops at nursing homes.

Despite the lofty title of poet laureate, Stein searches out life's minor moments for his verse. With his unaffected poetry, Stein continues the tradition set by Illinois' first poet laureate, Howard Austin, who would entertain audiences at conventions and banquets with his improvised and sometimes rowdy "instant poetry."

Stein also retains the regional focus of other Illinois poet laureates Sandburg, who famously dubbed Chicago "the City of the Big Shoulders," and Brooks, who captured daily struggles in Chicago's South Side and showed the world the thriving life in her Bronzeville neighborhood.

Related Links

Hear David Hernandez, the "unofficial Poet Laureate of Chicago," read his stories and poems along with his band, Street Sounds.

Read more about Howard B. Austin, Illinois Poet Laureate from 1936-1962.

Read more about Carl Sandberg, Illinois' second poet laureate, from 1962-1967.

Read more about Gwendolyn Brooks, Illinois Poet Laureate from 1967-2000, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign web site. Listen to interviews with Brooks' friends and family on the occasion of her death in 2000.

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Learn more about Kevin Stein and his quest to extend the reach of poetry into everyday life.


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Stein with a copy of poems by Ohio native James Wright, about whom Stein wrote a scholarly introduction. Photo courtesy of Kevin Stein.

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Stein working at his computer. Photo courtesy of Kevin Stein.


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