The American Poet Laureate shows how the state has been the silent center of poetic production in the United States since World War II. It is the first history of the national poetry office, the U.S. poet laureate, highlighting the careers of Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Pinsky, Tracy K. Smith, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Joy Harjo at the nation's Capitol. It is also a history of how these state poets participated in national arts programming during the Cold War.Drawing on previously unexplored archival materials at the Library of Congress and materials at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Amy Paeth describes the interactions of federal bodies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with literary organizations and with private patrons, including "Prozac heiress" Ruth Lilly. The consolidation of public and private interests is crucial to the development of state verse culture, recognizable at the first National Poetry Festival in 1962, which followed Robert Frost's "Mission to Moscow," and which became dominant in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The American Poet Laureate contributes to a growing body of institutional and sociological approaches to U.S. literary production in the postwar era and demonstrates how poetry has played a uniquely important, and largely underacknowledged, role in the cultural front of the Cold War.