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Kemp Names Chelsea Rathburn as Georgia’s Poet Laureate


Governor Brian P. Kemp announced he has selected Chelsea Rathburn as Georgia’s next Poet Laureate. Rathburn, a professor of English and creative writing at Young Harris College, succeeds Judson Mitcham as Poet Laureate.

“Chelsea Rathburn is an accomplished poet whose passion for literature will fuel her success as an ambassador for Georgia’s literary arts,” said Governor Kemp. “She has had a brilliant career as a poet, writer, scholar and professor and I’m confident that in her role as Poet Laureate she will serve as an ambassador for the arts in every community across Georgia.”

Rathburn joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including David Bottoms, Bettie Mixon Sellers, John R. Lewis, Jr., Conrad Aiken, Agnes Bramblett, Oliver F. Reeves, Wrightman Metlon, Earnest Neal and Frank Stanton.

“It’s thrilling and a bit bewildering to be named to this position and I’m honored to have a chance to advocate for poetry, literacy, and Georgia’s rich literary culture,” said Chelsea Rathburn. “Georgia has such a deep literary history, and I hope to highlight the ways that poetry, language, and stories can connect us and help us build stronger communities.”

Rathburn is the author of three poetry collections, A Raft of Grief (2013), The Shifting Line (2005), winner of the 2005 Richard Wilbur Award, and Still Life with Mother and Knife (2019). Her poems have been widely published in the nation’s top journals, including The Atlantic, Poetry and New England Review, among others, while her prose has been published in the nation’s most esteemed journals, including Creative Nonfictionand Ploughshares. In 2009, she received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Born in Jacksonville and raised in Miami, Florida, Rathburn has deep roots in the state of Georgia, where her mother’s family has lived since the 1830s. Rathburn holds a B.A. from Florida State University and an M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas. Rathburn moved to Young Harris from Decatur, Ga., where she taught poetry workshops at Emory University and chaired the poetry track for the Decatur Book Festival.  She lives in Young Harris, Ga., with her husband, the poet James Davis May, and their daughter.

“We are delighted to have Chelsea Rathburn join the distinguished ranks of Georgia’s Poets Laureate,” said Karen Paty, Executive Director of Georgia Council for the Arts. “Chelsea is the third woman in nearly one hundred years to hold this position and we are eager to not only introduce her work to all Georgians, but to support her as she cultivates and inspires young women and young men alike to explore the work of great Georgia poets and cultivate their own literary voices. I am confident that we will all grow deeper in our connection to the written word through her service.”

The position of Georgia’s Poet Laureate was established in 1925. As the state’s Poet Laureate, Rathburn will be an ambassador for the literary arts in Georgia, championing the rich legacy of Georgia writers, past and present and cultivating new audiences. In this role, Rathburn will serve every corner of the state to voice the value of reading, writing and literacy in the lives of every Georgian. The work of the state poet laureate is facilitated by Georgia Council for the Arts on behalf of the Governor. Working closely with Executive Director, Karen Paty, Rathburn will continue programs to advance the literary arts in Georgia such as the high school writing initiative, the Poet Laureate’s Prize, begun by former Poet Laureate Judson Mitcham and add innovative new initiatives to support literacy, poetry and creative writing.


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