This morning (Wednesday), at a creative writing class at Paseo Academy for the Arts, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced the creation of the Poet Laureate Program in Kansas City.  

Lucas says the city is trying to match the city’s Poet Laureate Program with those currently existing on a national level, in most states, and in many cities.  

“In Kansas City, our poet laureate will be an ambassador for poetry and arts; encouraging the teaching, reading and writing of poetry as an avenue for education, culture and entertainment across the city,” said Mayor Lucas.  “We look forward to the poet laureate inspiring the next generation of emerging poets, writers and artists.”  

Nominations for the city’s first poet laureate are being accepted through April 14 online at  Individuals can nominate a person or a poet can nominate themselves.  

The poet laureate will serve a one-year term beginning in August and will receive a $5,000 stipend.  

Lucas said the City decided not to make the position full-time to open it up to more individuals such as students and retirees. 

Poet Laureate Qualifications 

“All ages are welcome to apply,” said Lucas, who encouraged Paseo students attending the program announcement to apply.  “I fully expect one of you from Paseo or other young people to make sure that they are part of this program as well.”

Nominees must be a Kansas City resident at the time they’re nominated and must reside in Kansas City during their one-year term as poet laureate.  

Other applicant qualifications include:  

Having demonstrated a connection to the literary community in Kansas City.

Having an acclaimed collection of literary work focused primarily on poetry.

Have an interest in serving the community in a public-facing role

Be willing to travel within Kansas City and attend events as an advocate for the arts

The application process requires submission of a resume or curriculum vitae, up to three work samples totaling a maximum of three pages and a one-page narrative summarizing why the nominee wished to be considered and what the nominee would like to accomplish while serving in the position.  

Selection Calendar

The nominations will be reviewed by a Poet Laureate Selection Committee between April 15 – 24.   The actual composition of the selection committee isn’t clear, but the city’ website says the committee “may” include representatives from the Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Public Schools, City of Kansas City Missouri Creative Director, the American Jazz Museum, and the City of Kansas City Office of the City Manager.

The mayor will appoint the poet laureate at the April 27 City Council meeting.  The poet laureate will be inaugurated in August 2023 and their first official presentation will be at the inauguration of the Kansas City Mayor on Aug 1.  

Dr. Ashley Lindeman, Creative Arts Program Lead at Paseo Academy and students Creative Writing students Hadiya Bayan and Langston Milsap look on as Mayor Quinton Lucas announces the new KC Poet Laureate Program. 

Milsapread and Bayan read their poems to those in attendance following the announcement. 

Missouri Accepting Applications for Poet Laureate

Current Missouri Poet Laureate Maryfrances Wagner’s term expires on June 30 and the Missouri Art Council is accepting applications for her replacement through Mon. April 3.  

Whoever succeeds Wagner will serve to enrich “the lives of residents by sharing and promoting poetry through public appearances, readings, workshops, and digital and social media,” according to the Missouri Arts Council website. They also will create an original work inspired by our state.

Missourians can make nominations at the MAC website. Submission requirements are similar to those for the Kansas City position.  

Kansas Poet Laureate

Kansas’ poet laureate is Traci Brimhall was appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly to a four-year term that began January 1.  Brimhall, a professor and Director of Creative Writing at Kansas State University, was selected for the position by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC).  As the state’s eighth poet laureate Brimhall will conduct public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations that serve communities across the state.

Langston Milsapread reading his poem.
Hadiya Bayan reading her poem

Poet Laureate History  

A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions.  The United States has had a Poet Laureate program since 1985.  
From 1937 to 1986, the forerunner to the poet laureate position in the United States was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
The original duties of the consultant in poetry differed greatly from the current duties of the poet laureate. The position initially was similar to that of a reference librarian, and the goal of the consultant was to serve primarily as a collection specialist and resident scholar in poetry and literature. Over the years, the position gradually placed less emphasis on developing the Library’s collections and more on organizing local poetry readings, lectures, conferences, and outreach programs.
The poet laureate is appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress. In making the appointment, the Library’s Literary Initiatives Office consults with the current laureate, former appointees, distinguished poetry critics, scholars, booksellers, leaders of literary organizations, and others who are deeply knowledgeable about poetry. 
In 1976, Robert Hayden became the first African American appointed consultant in poetry.  The Library of Congress considers Gwendolyn Brooks, the final consultant in poetry, the 29th person to have occupied the consultantship.
Rita Dove, who was appointed in 1993, is the country’s first official African-American poet laureate.  In 2017, Tracy K. Smith was appointed poet laureate.  She was appointed to a second term in 2019.  

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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