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Poets of Michigan

Will Carleton, the Michigan Bard

William McKendree Carleton

The Bard of Michigan
October 21, 1847, Hudson, MI - December 18, 1912, Brooklyn, NY

Carleton, a farmer's son, was an 1869 graduate of Hillsdale College and internationally-recognized poet, editor, and lecturer, described the inspiration for his most well-known poem:

"Over there to the west, in Hillsdale, there stood in the old days a county poorhouse," he said.
"Sometimes, I used to visit the inmates there and hear their troubles.
And sometimes I used to see old people … who had out their property in the hands of their children,
passing up the road on their way to the poorhouse on the other side of the hill."

Upon his death, Carleton became the Michigan's unofficial "poet laureate." In Public Act 51, signed into law in 1919, the State of Michigan designated October 21st of each year as "Carleton Day" in memory of "Michigan's pioneer poet."2 "Carleton Day" remained a commemorative school holiday until its removal in 1995 as directed by Public Act 289 during a revision of the state of Michigan's school code.

Selected Works

Carleton also published a literary magazine called Every Where starting in September 1894. The monthly periodical featured poems, short stories and other timely topics. It remained in circulation until after Carleton's death in 1912. Carleton is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

1The Collegian. Hannah Niemeier, "Will Carleton: Poet of the People" March 23, 2017.

2Mlive. Jack and David Dempsey, "Michigan Authors: Poet Will Carleton Came to Fame Writing Wistfully About Divorce." August 9, 2013.

John C. Wright

John Couchois Wright

Michigan's Indian Poet
April 14, 1874, Harbor Springs, MI - May 23, 1939, Newark Township, MI

Born John C. Couchois, he would later take the last name Wright (surname of mother's first husband) following the death of his father. Wright grew up in the Harbor Springs area and spent much of his life there. In 1896 Wright established and edited the Harbor Springs weekly newspaper The Standard. He became a well-known author of Native American stories in Michigan and identified for his lyrical verse in describing the picturesque Little Traverse Bay area. He was credited with originating a widely used slogan "Michigan, the Playground of the Nation." Wright eventually died in the Gratiot County Infirmary near Ithaca, Michigan after a serious illness confined him to the facility for several years. His remains were later exhumed from the indigent section of Riverside Cemetery in Alma and reburied in Lakeview Cemetery in Harbor Springs.

Selected Works

Edgar Guest

Edgar Albert Guest

Poet Laureate of the State of Michigan, 1952-1959
August 20, 1881, Birmingham, England - August 5, 1959, Detroit, MI

Edgar Guest was born in Birmingham, England and later emigrated with his family to Detroit, Michigan in 1891. Guest was hired as a copy boy for the Detroit Free Press in 1895, later working up his way to the news department and eventually serving with the Free Press for almost sixty-five years. His first poem appeared on December 11, 1898. He later developed a weekly column that was syndicated to over three-hundred newspapers throughout the United States. During his life Guest published over twenty volumes of poetry and is believed to have composed over 11,000 poems. Guest broadcast a weekly program on NBC radio from 1931 to 1942. In 1951, "A Guest in Your Home" appeared on NBC TV. Guest was appointed Poet Laureate of Michigan in 1952, a position he held until his death in 1959. He was the first and only Michigan Poet Laureate. Guest is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

Selected Works

Additional Resources

Updated: 3/1/2022