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  • NYS Writers Institute

John Prine named Illinois’ first honorary poet laureate

The State of Illinois commemorated the life and work of one of its own on Tuesday, naming the late singer-songwriter John Prine as its first honorary poet laureate.

Prine, who died April 7, 2020, from complications of COVID-19, was born in Maywood, Illinois. Following his military service, he got a job as a mailman, working during the day and playing his songs in small clubs across the state. He caught a break when movie critic Roger Ebert happened to catch a show in 1970 and wrote a glowing review for the Chicago Sun-Times

In a press release announcing the honor, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said, ""Illinois has been home to many talented poets like Carl Sandburg, Sandra Cisneros, and Gwendolyn Brooks who all used their words to inspire readers across the world."

His wife Fiona Whelan Prine said, "John had a great respect for Writers of all kinds. He regarded Poets as being among those whose work carried weight, relevance and elevated craft. It is such an honor for me, our sons, and the entire Prine family to acknowledge that our beloved John will be named an Honorary Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois."

Prine performed in the Capital Region dozens of times throughout his career. Following his death, Karen Good wrote a post on the Nippertown arts/music website :

Mr. Prine last played at the [Troy Savings Bank Music] Hall in 2008 and in his rider was a request for cake and ice cream. He specifically asked to keep it simple, so we made a boxed cake and picked up ice cream fromStewart’s– delicious! We assumed it was someone’s birthday, but no, it was just the snack he liked to have after a good show.


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