The Poet Laureate serves a two-year term during which he or she provides a minimum of six public poetry readings in both rural and urban California areas. He or she is also charged with educating community, business and government leaders about the value of creative expression. The Poet Laureate also undertakes a cultural project during the two-year term that includes bringing the poetic arts to students who might not have had an opportunity to be exposed to poetry.
Ina D. Coolbrith was named the first State Poet Laureate by the legislature in 1915 to honor her contributions to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Charles B. Garrigus had been Poet Laureate of California since March 23, 1966 until the appointment of Al Young. He also served in the State Assembly.