Houston Poet Laureate - 2017 Application Details

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Criteria for Nomination and Selection of Poet Laureate

  • Have strong ties to the city of Houston and a strong interest in serving the city.
  • Reside in the city of Houston. Residency is based on the applicant’s physical residence [home], not on a P.O. Box, studio/workspace or other property owned by the applicant. Proof of residency is required.
  • Have documented experience in public speaking, teaching and/or public performance.
  • Must have any of the following history of publications:
    • A body of published work, including at least one full-length book (not self-published); or,
    • At least 20 published poems in established publications (print or online) over the past 5 years; or,
  • Ten published poems in established publications (print or online) over the past 5 years plus at least one top-10 individual ranking in a national or international poetry slam (not self-curated) within the last 5 years.
  • Must be at least 21 years of age and not currently enrolled in an academic program.

Term Expectations

  • Develop a community outreach project in which the Poet Laureate shares the art and love of poetry with a non-traditional and/or underserved audience. Examples of past outreach programs include:
    • Development of a social media platform for the Houston Poet Laureate to engage with all Houstonians.
    • Creation of an anthology of Houston’s Favorite Poems, modeled on former U.S. Robert Pinsky’s national project (http://www.favoritepoem.org/).
  • Plan and/or attend at least four community-based poetry programs per year, planned in coordination with the Houston Public Library Programming Department.
  • Provide content to the Houston Poet Laureate Facebook page and other social media venues.
  • Work with and provide mentorship to the Houston Youth Poet Laureate.
  • Prepare and provide an annual written report of activities.

Selection Process

Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown 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. The group is co-chaired by a representative of the Houston Public Library and a representative of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, both of whom will be non-voting members of the committee.

The selection committee will review all eligible applications, which will be scored on a 100 point scale, with up to 40 points for artistic merit of the work sample, up to 30 points for experience and background, and up to 30 points for the quality of the proposed outreach project.

Finalists will be interviewed in person by the committee in late February / early March 2017.

The names of the finalists will be forwarded to Mayor Turner for final selection. The Poet Laureate will be announced in April 2017 to coincide with National Poetry Month.


The Houston Poet Laureate will receive a total honorarium of $10,000 over the two-year term to be awarded in the following manner:

  • $2,500 upon signing of the contract.
  • $5,000 in April, 2018, upon receipt of the Poet Laureate’s Annual Report, signifying the beginning of the second annual term.
  • $2,500 in April, 2019, upon receipt of the Poet Laureate’s Final Report, signifying the end of the appointment.

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