The announcement of the new City of Urbana Poet Laureate is almost here. Since this is one envelope I'm really excited to see opened, I thought I'd take this opportunity to bring us up to speed on Urbana Poet Laureate Program, its selection process, its goals, and, best of all, what having a poet laureate of our own will mean for local poets and poetry fans. To find this out, I went straight to the source, Rachel Lauren Storm, the arts and culture coordinator for the Urbana Public Arts Program. Here's what I learned. 

Smile Politely: Is this new territory for Urbana?

Rachel Lauren Storm: The City of Urbana Poet Laureate is a brand new initiative from our Arts and Culture Commission and Program. This is our inaugural year and the Arts and Culture Commission will work closely with the Laureate to further projects that contribute to our local arts and culture scene!

SP: How did the idea come about?

Storm: In looking at other arts and culture program offerings across the nation, our staff and commissioners noted Poet Laureate Programs in other cities serving as terrific ways to highlight the work of local writers and showcase the local creative writing community. We are proud that Urbana has such a long-standing and robust poetry scene and knew we wanted to do something to help tell that story. The City of Urbana is home to many writers group, open mics, and poetry initiatives, including: CU Poetry Group’s Poets at the Post, The Glass Door Poets, the Quintessential Poets, Soul on Sunday, Open Scene Open Mic, Flor Poetry, Espresso Yourself Café, and Imbibe Urbana’s annual Love for All Poetry Crawl, just to name a few!

SP: Can you describe the process? Was it by nomination?

Storm: This inaugural year, we utilized an application process released during our annual Urbana Arts Grant cycle. Applicants submitted a proposal detailing how they would elevate the art of poetry through civic events or initiatives, along with their CV and samples of their work. The applications were reviewed by a jury comprised of a diversity of poets and arts administrators.

SP: What will the role of the poet laureate be? How will local poets and poetry fans being able to engage with their new poet laureate?

Storm; The Poet Laureate will carry out initiatives with support from the Urbana Arts and Culture Program that engage our whole community. Poets and fans alike will be able to attend events hosted by the Poet Laureate and hear their work at City-sponsored special events.

SP: How long with the poet laureate serve?

Storm: The Poet Laureate serves a one-year term, with support from Mayor Diane Wolfe Marlin, the Urbana Arts and Culture Program, and the City of Urbana.

SP: How do you think having a poet laureate will impact our community?

Storm:  Our mission is to celebrate poetry by recognizing a resident poet who makes meaningful connections, honors and serves our diverse community, and elevates the importance of the creative writing art form through sharing their work with Urbana residents. We hope this person will work to highlight Urbana’s terrific poetry scene, bring new poets into existing programs, and work to share poetry with the broader community.

SP: When and how will be learn the identity of our new poet laureate?

Storm: We are making the announcement next week and will also announce a reception in celebration of the announcement. At the reception, you’ll get a chance to meet the Poet Laureate and hear some of their work!

SP: Anything else you can tell us about this exciting position?

Storm: Urbana’s arts and culture scene grows more and more every day. From live music each night in our Downtown, unique opportunities to shop local art in our galleries and markets, and cultural events that expand our horizons, the City of Urbana is a strong creative community and we look forward to seeing our Poet Laureate become part of its future.

Stay turned to the Smile Politely arts section or to Urbana Public Arts Program website and Facebook  to learn more about Urbana's Poet Laureate announcement and other local arts program news. 

Photo from Urbana Public Arts Program Facebook page.