A poet laureate is a title officially bestowed upon a writer, usually by a monarch or government, to compose poems for special events and occasions.
The annual stipend supports the artist in residence to compose such poems and works that articulate the nation’s literary voice.
The role stems from classical tradition when poets and heroes were crowned with a laurel wreath for winning perfomances. It was reinstated in the 1300s in the royal courts of Italy and in the 1500s in Britain by King Henry VII.
Currently, over a dozen national governments continue the poet laureate tradition.
In the USA the poet laureate is described as one who:
serves as the nation’s official poet. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.
In the UK the poet laureate is described as one who:
n, pl poets laureate1. (Poetry) the poet appointed as court poet of Britain who is given a post as an officer of the Royal Household.