Oakland Launches Search for First-Ever Poet Laureate

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Oakland's new program is part of a national wave of interest and engagement with poetry. (Greg Linhares, City of Oakland)

Oakland is now accepting nominations for its first-ever Oakland Poet Laureate Program.

Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Commission approved the creation of the Oakland Poet Laureate position at a Jan. 25 meeting, and the program will be modeled after similar ones in the Bay Area and across the nation. Uniquely, the city has had a Youth Poet Laureate since 2012 through a program run by the Oakland Public Library—but not a similar role for poets over 18.

The inaugural Oakland Poet Laureate will receive a $5,000 honorarium and serve a two-year term beginning in June 2021. During their tenure, the selected poet will deliver an inaugural address, partner with the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate on a collaborative reading series, write one poem commemorating the city, and deliver four readings at various city-owned locations throughout Oakland.

Oakland’s new program joins Alameda County and Santa Clara County programs as the latest in a national wave of interest and engagement with poetry, in part sparked by inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s performance at the presidential inauguration in January.

To be eligible, nominees must be current Oakland residents who have lived in Oakland consistently for at least five years, and must be over the age of 18 with at least two previous works published. They also must have a track record of engagement with Oakland’s creative community. The program aims to “make poetry more accessible across Oakland, while promoting an understanding of the transformative power of this art form.”

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The nomination form is open through May 19, and nominees must submit a resume and writing sample. The oversight committee will evaluate nominees based on their command of craft, community engagement, understanding of Oakland’s distinctions and other criteria.

To learn more about the program, visit oaklandca.gov/poetlaureate or email OakPoetLaureate@oaklandca.gov. The nomination form can be found here.