Creating Poets Laureate Positions in States, Cities, U.S. Territories, and Tribal Nations

The number of Poets Laureate positions in states, cities, U.S. Territories, and Tribal nations continues to increase. For those interested in establishing similar positions in your communities, we've assembled the following overview of how two of these civic positions and appointments are generally created.  
 
All but five states (New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico) in the United States have established Poet Laureate positions. These positions are an important way to honor a poet and recognize the place that poetry has in a state’s cultural tradition and civic life. The poet serving in these roles is an ambassador of the art form, literature, literacy, and storytelling. Additionally, many cities, large and small, now honor a poet in their community with the title of Poet Laureate. Similar to State Poets Laureate, these poets are important champions of the art form in their community and work to inspire the next generation of poets and their readers. Of the 35 U. S. cities with populations of 500,000 residents or more, there are 16 with City Poets Laureate. To see a list of current State and City Poets Laureate, visit Poetry Near You and click on the states menu to the right of the page.
 
State Poets Laureate 
 
The State Poet Laureate position is an honorary position typically created by a bill passed by the state’s legislature that designates the State Arts or Humanities Council to recommend nominees for the State Poet Laureate position, and the Governor the authority to appoint a citizen of the State as State Poet Laureate. The State Poet Laureate celebrates the state’s cultural heritage and promotes literacy and literature among state residents. 
 
Oversight: The State Arts and/or Humanities Council typically coordinates the State Poet Laureate program. To assist, it may establish a State Poet Laureate Commission or Committee comprised of volunteers who are state residents and noted poets, professors of poetry and literature, librarians, and other leaders of cultural institutions. This Commission or Committee typically reviews the nominations process, requirements and qualifications of the candidates and provides input to the State Arts or Humanities Council on these matters; vets nominations; and members may participate in interviewing finalists. The State Arts or Humanities Council is ultimately responsible for forwarding final recommendations to the Governor. 
 
Appointment: The Governor appoints the State Poet Laureate. 
 
Nominations: Poets typically can nominate themselves or be nominated by other residents of the state through an online application made available by the State Arts or Humanities Council. The application form will include contact information for the poet (mailing address, phone number and email address) and the nominator if the nominator is not the poet. 
 
Requirements/Qualifications: 
  • poet must live in the state, and have lived in the state for three years, and continue to live in the state throughout the appointment
  • poet must have published at least one book (excluding self-published and vanity presses), have a substantial publication history in a variety of journals and media, received recognition in the field (including awards, fellowships, and prizes), and demonstrate literary excellence
  • poet must have demonstrated a previous commitment to promoting awareness of poetry 
  • poet must be 21 years of age and older 
  • poet must be able to travel statewide.  
 
Application: Poets must submit:
  • a completed application form
  • resume or vita (no longer than 3 pages) that lists publication credits, awards, recent poetry readings or activity
  • a work sample of 10 poems not to exceed 20 pages (in 12-point font, with 1" margins)
  • a one to two page description of what the poet would hope to accomplish as State Poet Laureate, including what their special project would be
 
Length of term: typically two years, renewable for an additional two years. 
 
Duties:
  • champion the art of poetry and the spoken word in the state in person and on social media
  • encourage appreciation of the art form and creative expression by a wide-range of residents of the state
  • inspire the next generation of poets and their readers in the state
  • celebrate the state’s poets and authors— past and present
  • celebrate the state’s cultural heritage
  • attend statewide literary and other cultural events in coordination with the state arts and/or humanities council
  • give 5 - 10 public readings and workshops throughout the state in an equal balance or rural, suburban, and urban areas
  • undertake a signature project in coordination with the state’s humanities and/or arts council to educate the state’s residents about poetry and literature
  • provide quarterly or biannual updates to the state arts and/or humanities council
 
Typical Honorarium: $2,500 - $10,000
 
Recognition: In addition to appointment by the Governor, the State Poet Laureate will be featured on the website of the State Arts or Humanities Council. 
 
Sample Timeline:
May 1— Call for Nominations
July 1— Deadline for nominations to be received by the Arts and/or Humanities Council
August— State Poet Laureate Committee meets to select finalists
September— Semi-Finalist interviews
October 1— State Poet Laureate recommendations submitted to the Governor
December— Governor selects State Poet Laureate
January— State Poet Laureate notified and public announcement planned
 
Resources:
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=200120020AB113
http://oac.ohio.gov/poetlaureate
http://www.cac.ca.gov/initiatives/pl.php
http://gaarts.org/programs/literary-arts/poet-laureate
https://azarts.gov/programs/arizona-poet-laureate/
https://heritage.utah.gov/arts-and-museums/poet-laureate
http://www.wisconsinpoetlaureate.org/application-information
https://www.humanitieskansas.org/grants-programs/poet-laureate
 
City Poet Laureate 
 
The City Poet Laureate is an honorary position typically created by a resolution passed by the city council that provides the Mayor the authority to appoint a citizen of the city as Poet Laureate. The City Poet Laureate promotes literacy and literature among city residents of all ages. 
 
Alternatively, the City Council may retain the authority to create a City Poet Laureate Committee or Panel, and to select and appoint a City Poet Laureate.
 
Alternatively, the City Poet Laureate may be a program of the city’s public library and managed independently of or in collaboration with the city council and/or Mayor’s office. 
 
Oversight: the Mayor’s Office (or City Council or public library) will establish a City Poet Laureate Committee or Panel that includes: a representative from the City Council, a representative of the library, a representative of the city arts board, and members of the city’s arts and literature community. The City Poet Laureate Committee or Panel will review and vet the applications/nominations and recommend City Poet Laureate nominees to the Mayor (or City Council or the head of the public library).
 
Appointment: The Mayor will appoint the City Poet Laureate (or the City Council or head of the public library will appoint).
 
Nominations: Poets can nominate themselves or be nominated by other city residents through an online application made available by the Mayor’s Office (or City Council or public library). The application form will include contact information for the poet (mailing address, phone number and email address) and the nominator if the nominator is not the poet. 
 
Requirements/Qualifications: 
  • poet must live in the city, and have lived in the city for no less than one year, and continue to live in the city throughout the appointment
  • poet must have significant publication history including books (excluding self-published and vanity presses), and in a variety of journals and media; have received recognition in the field, and demonstrate literary excellence
  • poet must have demonstrated a previous commitment to promoting awareness of poetry 
  • poet must be 18 years of age and older
 
Duties: 
  • read poems at ceremonial events (examples could include at the unveiling of a new building or bridge that will benefit the community), at City Council or other public meetings.
  • champion the art of poetry and the spoken word in the city in person and on social media
  • encourage appreciation of the art form and creative expression by a wide-range of city residents, including youth
  • celebrate the city’s cultural heritage
  • attend literary and other cultural events in the city as appropriate
  • give 5-10 public readings and workshops that are free and open to the public, including visits to schools and/or events for young people
  • provide updates as requested
 
Length of term: Typically two years, renewable for another two years. 
 
Typical Honorarium: $500 - $2,500
 
Sample timeline:
May 1— Call for Nominations
July 1— Deadline for nominations to be received
August— City Poet Laureate Committee or Panel meets to select finalists
September— Semi-Finalist interviews
October 1— City Poet Laureate recommendations submitted to the Mayor’s Office (or City
Council or head of the public library)
December— Mayor selects City Poet Laureate (or City Council or head of the public library)
January— City Poet Laureate notified and public announcement planned
 
Resources:
https://www.modestogov.com/DocumentCenter/View/3875/Poet-Laureate-Application-2016-2018-PDF?bidId=
http://documents.takomaparkmd.gov.s3.amazonaws.com/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160323-5a.pdf
https://cityofbostonartsandculture.submittable.com/submit/116155/city-of-boston-poet-laureate-nominations-2018
https://www.mpl.org/about/poet_laureate.php
 
 
 
 
 
Author:
Posted:
Type: