Valley verse-makers can now apply to be Phoenix's first poet laureate. The new position provides an annual stipend of $2,500, but is otherwise a volunteer gig with the goals of capturing Phoenix culture and creating a wider appreciation for poetry throughout metro Phoenix.
"Poetry, like all of the arts, has the ability to bring people together and connect us to our shared humanity. For this reason, we decided to announce the search for a poet laureate during [National] Arts and Humanities Month," says Gail Browne, executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, which is seeking nominations for the poet laureate position, along with Phoenix Public Library. "There's a reason we read poems to mark special occasions — weddings, inaugurations, funerals. Poetry causes us to focus on time and place. It has the capacity to make us stop and pay attention, to see things in new and unexpected ways."
"The poet laureate program is also a way of acknowledging our thriving literary culture in Phoenix," she adds. "Poetry readings, literary presses, and writing groups are flourishing in Phoenix. We want to celebrate that."
Duties of the Phoenix poet laureate will include giving at least four public readings per year, composing poems for special occasions, pursuing an outreach- and education-focused literary project, participating in book festivals and other literary events, and collaborating with other city and state poet laureates, including inaugural Arizona state poet laureate Alberto Ríos. Nominees must have been Phoenix residents for a minimum of the past two years, live in Phoenix at least half the year, have a record of published work, and be able to make presentations throughout the Valley. Complete guidelines on the requirements and nomination process are available at the City of Phoenix website.
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"We're hoping the poet laureate will help us capture the cultural richness and uniqueness of Phoenix — our people, our history, our landscape," Browne says. "We're looking for someone who will be inspirational to all of us, but especially to our young people. Someone who will bring them an appreciation of poetry and encourage them in their own creative expression. Through this, we hope to cultivate the next generation of readers and writers."
The review panel includes Mayor Greg Stanton and Phoenix City Council member Laura Pastor. "The review panel will be interested in all types of poetry. Published poets, spoken-word poets, poetry teachers all should apply," Browne says. "And while the poetry submitted with the application doesn't have to focus on Arizona or Phoenix, I do think the panel would want to refer to Mayor Stanton and Councilwoman Pastor for their final selection poets who are interested in writing about their home."
The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture will accept nomination packages through 5 p.m. Friday, November 4. The appointed poet laureate will serve a two-year term, beginning and ending on the first of January.