Press Release

April 22, 2021

Governor Stitt Appoints Tonkawa's Joe Russell Kreger as 2021-2022 Oklahoma State Poet Laureate

Joe Russell Kreger head shot

Joe Russell Kreger has been appointed by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to serve as the 2021-2022 Oklahoma State Poet Laureate. Kreger’s appointment marks his second tenure as laureate, having previously been appointed in 1997 by former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating.

“It is an honor to appoint Joe Russell Kreger as the 2021-2022 Oklahoma State Poet Laureate,” said Governor Stitt. “Joe’s journey to creative writing shows that it is never too late for new ventures and I look forward to this rancher turned ‘cowboy poet’ carrying on our Oklahoma tradition and promoting his work across the state.”

Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said, “Over the next two years, school children and other audiences across Oklahoma will have opportunities to find themselves absorbed in the stories Joe conveys in his poetry. Joe’s work as a cowboy poet is filled with the wisdom gleaned from a life defined by a strong work ethic, a humble nature, and the heartbreaks and blessings encountered along the way. His connection to the land we call home and the inspiration he draws from it are defining trademarks that will speak to the heart of Oklahomans everywhere.”

A farmer and rancher by trade, born and raised in Tonkawa, Kreger was introduced to poetry at a young age by his father. His venture into creative writing didn’t begin until he was 56 years old, when he began using poetry to document and express his life experiences. A self-described “cowboy poet,” Kreger has published two books on poetry, “Lookin’ at Life” and “Still Lookin’,” as well as several audio albums of his poetry. His books and albums have set sales records among cowboy poets of his era. Since taking up poetry, Kreger has given over 150 poetry readings and presentations in schools, churches, and agricultural organizations in the region.

Kreger is a graduate of Northern Oklahoma College and Oklahoma State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. In his early career, he held administrative positions with Continental Oil Company of Ponca City in the company’s geophysics operations and corporate purchasing departments. He later became a full-time rancher and entrepreneur, founding Kreger Equipment, a livestock and ranch equipment Oklahoma distribution business. Kreger eventually closed out the company to devote his efforts to working and growing Kreger Ranch, a purebred and commercial beef cattle operation.

The tradition of officials conferring poets laureate to make public appearances and to promote a greater appreciation of poetry originated hundreds of years ago. The current United States Poet Laureate is Tulsa resident Joy Harjo. Oklahoma’s poets laureate tradition dates back to 1923. The appointment of an Oklahoma State Poet Laureate by the Governor of Oklahoma was codified into state law in 1994. The statute calls for an appointment every two years.

The Oklahoma Arts Council serves on behalf of the Office of the Governor to accept nominations for the position. The agency supports the efforts of state poets laureate by promoting their work and making grants available to eligible entities for programs that meet funding criteria. Organizations and schools interested in presenting Kreger can learn more at arts.ok.gov.

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About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides more than 425 grants to nearly 270 organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma state Capitol. Additional information is available at arts.ok.gov.