WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Craig Morgan Teicher

There is occasional confusion about the nature of the United States poet laureateship: The selection of laureate has nothing to do with the president.

The poet is selected by the Librarian of Congress, meaning the laureate works for a completely different branch of the government. This is a smart and useful separation of powers: An advocate of free speech and education should not be beholden to a president, especially this one.

The poet Carolyn Forché was 27 when a stranger showed up on her doorstep, unrolled a giant sheet of paper on her dining room table, and proceeded to give her a masterclass in Central American geopolitics and the crisis unfolding in El Salvador.

"There is soon going to be a war," the man says.