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City announces Poet Laureate, Youth Poet Laureate programs

For Immediate Release: 9/30/2019 4:02 pm

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr., in collaboration with the Worcester City Council and Cultural Development Division, is pleased to announce the revival of the City of Worcester Poet Laureate Program and the creation of the Youth Poet Laureate Program.

The Poet Laureate will serve a term of three years, from January 2020 through December 2022. The Youth Poet Laureate will serve a two year term, from January 2020 through December 2021.

The City of Worcester Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate will serve as official ambassadors of Worcester’s historic, vibrant, poetic and literary culture, using their positions as vehicles to promote the City’s great writers and the transformative qualities of poetry and the written word throughout the community.

“As the birthplace of Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Bishop and National Book Award recipient Stanley Kunitz, Worcester has a proud history of producing great poets,” said City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. “We’re excited to announce these poet laureate programs as we continue to engage with different parts of our community, embracing a chorus of diverse voices and perspectives across our city.”

The objectives of the City of Worcester’s Poet Laureate Programs are to:

  • Enhance the presence and appreciation of poetry and literary arts in Greater Worcester
  • Celebrate the spirit of the people and special qualities of Worcester, the City of Innovation
  • Raise awareness of the power of literature, poetry, and the spoken word
  • Provide a forum for collaborative art forms
  • Engage and support an emerging generation of poets and spoken word artists
  • Provide access to poetry and literary arts to all sectors of the community
  • Encourage the reading and writing of both poetry and the written word

Nomination Process

The City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Division will administer the nomination process for the Poet Laureate Programs through a Poet Laureate Task Force. The Task Force will establish a fair and inclusive selection process to ensure the most qualified candidates are appointed. To be considered, candidates must be nominated. The Task Force will seek nominations from an array of literary sources and individuals including, but not limited to: college and university literature and poetry departments; libraries, literary organizations, societies, and centers; poetry book organizations, publishers, and editors; primary, intermediate, and high school faculty and staff; directors of literary and poetry reading series; and non-literary members of the community. Self-nominations are also permitted and encouraged.

The Cultural Development Division will convene the Task Force, with personnel subject to change at the discretion of the City Manager. The Task Force will review nominations and make recommendations to the Cultural Development Division, who will forward to the City Manager’s Office for consideration.

The Worcester Poet Laureate Program is designed to promote appreciation of the diverse spirits and voices of Worcester’s cross-cultural communities. Both Poet Laureates will have significant connection to the Worcester community, and will be willing to foster even deeper roots throughout their term. The Youth Poet Laureate must be between 12 and 19 years of age on January 1, 2020, and demonstrate an interest in the creative arts. The Poet Laureate should demonstrate excellence in their artistic work, and will have received wide recognition with both the poetic/literary field and with their readers.

Selection Criteria

Worcester writers with deep connection to the cultural life of the City will be considered for the Poet Laureate appointment. Additional selection criteria include:

  • The literary excellence of the author’s work
  • The impact of the author on other writers, and on the literature of Worcester and its diverse voices
  • The ability and willingness of the author to conduct required public engagement duties
  • The local, national, and international reputation of the author and his or her work


  • 80 percent of the total score will be based on quality of artistic work samples, curriculum vitae or resume, as well as other professional accomplishments (press coverage, exhibitions, programs, etc.).
  • 20 percent of the total score will be based on quality of the proposed project, such as new work ideas, community presentation, and collaborative ideas

Term and Responsibilities – Scope of Work

Each year, Poet Laureate appointees will be expected to communicate their experience widely to peers and City communities. Over the course of the three-year appointment, renewable after the first year, the City of Worcester Poet Laureate:

  • Provides no less than four school visits annually
  • Performs no less than two public readings annually. The readings may be original works created for a specific event, past work appropriate to the occasion and audience, or historic works by past Worcester poets. Events and locations may be across the City in a location designated by the City Manager or the Cultural Development Officer, such as public building dedications, public art installations, or other community events.
  • Educate Worcester residents, visitors, civic and elected leaders, young people, adults, seniors, and students of all ages about the value of poetry and creative expression through self-coordinated or community-partnered events and activities, as approved by the Cultural Development Officer
  • Mentor Youth Poet Laureate
  • Create at least one commemorative poem annually about Worcester

Over the course of a two-year appointment, the City of Worcester Youth Poet Laureate will:

  • Embark on two years of opportunities as an ambassador to literacy, arts, and youth expression, as well as a library book tour;
  • Represent the City of Worcester in the public realm as deemed appropriate; and
  • Create at least one commemorative poem annually about Worcester.


The Worcester Poet Laureate receives an annual honorarium of $1,000, to be contributed from public and private sources. This award will be based on benchmarks established in a legal contract. The Worcester Youth Poet Laureate receives a $2,500 scholarship, as well as a $500 stipend honorarium, to be contributed from private sources.

Deadline for Nominations

All nominations and applications must be received by 10 a.m. on December 9, 2019, or postmarked by December 9, 2019.

Instruction for Submitting Applications

For consideration, a completed Application Cover Sheet and all required collateral materials must be received or post marked by November 13, 2019. All materials can be found on the Cultural Development page of the City of Worcester website. These items can be emailed to Culture@WorcesterMA.gov, or mailed to:

Cultural Development Officer
Attn: City of Worcester Poet Laureate Program
455 Main Street, Room 409
Worcester, MA 01608

Two workshops will be held during October to answer questions about the application process. Dates and locations will be announced once finalized.

For questions and concerns, please contact the Cultural Development Division at 508-799-1400 x-3, or email Culture@WorcesterMA.gov.

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