Pioneers in Poetry: South Dakota’s New Poet Laureate

As of July 1, 2015, South Dakota has welcomed a brand new poet laureate: Lee Ann Roripaugh. She will hold the title until 2019, and replaces the former laureate, David Allan Evans, who had been the state’s poet laureate since 2002. Read on to find out more about Lee Ann Roripaugh’s life and poetry!

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As of July 1, 2015, South Dakota has welcomed a brand new poet laureate: Lee Ann Roripaugh.

Life of Lee Ann Roripaugh

Lee Ann Roripaugh was born and raised in Wyoming, where she developed an interest in poetry and music at a young age. She developed her creative writing skills through self-help books and lots of practice, finally going on to get her B.M. in Piano Performance, M.M. in Music History, and M.F.A. in Creative Writing.

Lee Ann published her first book of poetry, “Beyond Heart Mountain,” in 1999. Since then, she has written three more and is currently working on her fifth book. She has won several writing awards and currently works as the Director of Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota and Editor-in-Chief for the South Dakota Review journal.

Roripaugh’s Poetry

As a second-generation Japanese-American, Lee Ann pulls from traditional Japanese poetry as her inspiration. She typically writes in free verse, poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular meter. Much of her poetry deals with the challenges and tensions of growing up with a mixed-race identity in America. Her most recent book, “Dandarions,” speaks about the way language is learned – a topic Roripaugh is familiar with, as she grew up in a non-English speaking family.


What’s next for Lee Ann Roripaugh? As South Dakota Poet Laureate, her main responsibility is to help grow the poetry community. She plans to travel over the next few months giving poetry readings, running poetry workshops, and officiating literary events. She hopes to inspire future poets, especially Asian-Americans. She believes it is important for them to feel represented and that their experiences matter.

Are you feeling inspired by Lee Ann Roripaugh? Try writing a free verse poem of your own! Remember, poetry doesn’t need to rhyme or follow a certain structure, but it’s always best when it’s triggered by something that inspires you. If you like what you write, consider submitting it to our poetry contest and showing your work to the world!

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