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Houston Seeks First Poet Laureate

This came in through the Inbox. What a novel idea–a poet laureate for the City of Houston. Talk about a great way of showcasing literary talent. Applications are due March 8. Here’s the memo from our friends at the Houston Public Library:

Houston (February 20, 2013) – Mayor Annise D. Parker and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announce that Houston is seeking its first Poet Laureate.  The Houston Poet Laureate Program (HPLP) celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who will represent the city by creating excitement about poetry through outreach, programs, teaching, and written work. The Houston Poet Laureate will receive an annual honorarium of $5,000 through the City’s Initiative Grant Program of the Houston Arts Alliance and serve a term of two years, April 2013 through April 2015.

Submissions are welcome from persons nominating a poet for the position of Houston Poet Laureate or from individual poets who are seeking the position. The HPLP application can be found at http://www.houstonlibrary.org/upload/13-houston-laureate-form.pdf, which includes information about all materials required and term requirements. Completed application packets should be submitted either as Microsoft Word or PDF documents via e-mail to jennifer.schwartz@houstontx.gov by 11:59 PM (CST) on Friday, March 8, 2013. (Note: All nominations submitted must be complete and fulfill all requirements. Incomplete nomination packets will not be considered.)

The HPLP is provided in partnership between the City of Houston, HPL, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA).

Houston’s diversity is its strength, and we want to tap the resource of talented individuals in our city to find our first Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Parker. “As a fellow poet, I hope everyone joins in the competition and help Houston’s reputation grow as a fine arts city.”

At the Houston Public Library we have long recognized poetry programming as a valuable and essential literary tool for the cultural enrichment of the community,” said Dr. Lawson. “We are very excited about joining the Mayor and the Poet Laureate committee to select Houston’s first Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate will serve an important role, representing the city through the written word. The Poet Laureate will help make poetry more accessible and engaging for everyone by creating original works and events about and for Houstonians.”

Mayor Parker, along with Director Lawson, has appointed the Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee, a group of acknowledged and diverse poets, scholars, and literary experts, to assist in the nomination and selection process: Robin Reagler, Executive Director of Writers in the Schools (WITS), Janet Lowery, Professor and Cullen Chair of English and Creative Writing in the University of St. Thomas Department of English, Rich Levy, Executive Director of Inprint, Joseph Campana, Assistant Professor in the Rice University Department of English, Chitra Divakaruni, Professor in the University of Houston Department of English, Shannon Buggs, Director of Communication in the University of Houston College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Diem Jones, Director of Grants at the Houston Arts Alliance, Elizabeth Brown Guillory, Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Associate Provost/Associate Vice President for Academic and Faculty Affairs at Texas Southern University. Jennifer Schwartz, Program Manager of the Houston Public Library, and Minnette Boesel, Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs of the City of Houston, are the non-voting members of the Committee.

The Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee will review all applications. Finalists will be interviewed in person by the committee in late March and early April. The names of the finalists will be forwarded to Mayor Parker and Dr. Lawson for their approval and final selection. The Poet Laureate will be announced in April 2013 to coincide with National Poetry Month.