ArtsWestchester Accepting Applications for New Poet Laureate Post

County Executive George Latimer and ArtsWestchester announced Tuesday a competitive call for an inaugural poet laureate position for Westchester County for the 2021-22 term.

Westchester’s poet laureate candidate will be an advocate for poetry and the literary arts and have significant personal poetic work. The person will also encourage the community to engage with poetry by creating and leading activities that inspire writing and poetry performances among all age groups while initiating a dialogue between local poets, cultural organizations and community institutions.

While the first-ever holder of a poet laureate position dates to the 13th century, America`s first poet laureate was Robert Frost who was officially appointed in 1961. Today, the position is not restricted to the national level: nearly all states have a poet laureate, as do many counties, cities and other jurisdictions. Westchester County officials suggested it is a perfect time to join other counties around the state in creating a poet laureate position at the local level.

“When we think about memorializing a time, a place, a struggle or an occasion, we turn to one of the highest forms of expression – poetry,” Latimer said. “It is this language in the hands of a poet laureate that we can reframe and restate the ideals we hold true.”

“Support for our creatives is more important than ever during this pandemic,” said Janet T. Langsam, CEO of ArtsWestchester. “The concept of a poet laureate is an affirmation that in our present-day society words matter and that it is important that these words be truthful, poetic and emblematic of our principles and our aspirations. We look to a poet laureate to express for us the things we might like to say ourselves, if only we had the poetic license.”

The poet laureate program is managed as a partnership between ArtsWestchester and the county’s executive’s office.

How do poets apply? 

The open call for applications for the 2021-22 poet laureate is now active, with a deadline of Nov. 16 at 11:59 p.m. The two-year term is set to begin Jan. 1 and continue through Dec. 31.

Applications are only accepted through ArtsWestchester’s grant site through submittable.

Applicants must be at least 25 years old, must have resided in Westchester County for two years prior to application; during the time of application and for the duration of the appointment; and must have past work that is of high artistic quality demonstrated by journal publications, chapbooks, books, audio or video. Full eligibility requirements and terms are here.

Eligible applications will be reviewed by a panel of judges, including ArtsWestchester staff or board and County representatives and well-regarded poets from the region. The top candidates will be interviewed before a final selection is made and announced by the county.

The selected poet laureate will serve a two-year term and receive an honorarium of $1,250 per year to fulfill the post’s duties. Additional funds of up to $500 will be available for materials and other approved costs associated with the community engagement programs the poet laureate facilitates.

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