NASAA Notes: July 2024

July 2, 2024

New Mexico, Utah, Connecticut: Poet Laureate Community Engagement Initiatives

More than 40 states and jurisdictions have appointed a poet laureate. These prestigious writers fulfill a variety of roles, such as increasing public engagement with poetry, encouraging creative expression by youth and elevating the visibility of the state’s contributions to the genre of poetry. Selection policies, stipends and official duties vary from state to state, as does the state arts agency role in the appointment. Many state arts agencies encourage local communities to book the state poet laureate for readings and workshops. Some state arts agencies also collaborate with their poet laureate on special community engagement initiatives. New Mexico, Utah and Connecticut offer three examples.

New Mexico Epic Poem Project

A classic typewriter was on display when the New Mexico Epic Poem Project visited the town of Raton in northern New Mexico, population 6,000. Photo courtesy of New Mexico Arts

New Mexico Poet Laureate Lauren Camp and New Mexico Arts Director Michelle Laflamme-Childs are touring cities, villages and towns across the state–with a special emphasis on rural and remote communities—as part of the New Mexico Epic Poem Project. The events, held at libraries, schools, arts centers, coffee shops, bookstores and other community gathering places, begin with a brief reading from Camp, followed by an open mic where attendees are encouraged to read their own favorite poems or original compositions. After the readings, Camp and Laflamme-Childs initiate a community dialogue intended to help dispel some of the deep-seated misconceptions about poetry that often prevent people from feeling comfortable engaging with it. The workshops culminate with Camp leading the participants in a prompted writing exercise. Camp and Laflamme-Childs are using the writing generated from the prompt to create original poems commemorating each community involved in the project. The new works will be printed as broadsides by the historic Palace Press at the New Mexico History Museum’s Palace of the Governors. Each community will receive a copy of its own broadside while a second will be featured in an exhibition showcasing New Mexico community voices. The poet laureate program is co-coordinated by New Mexico Arts and the New Mexico State Library, divisions of the Department of Cultural Affairs. To learn more, contact Michelle Laflamme-Childs.

Utah Mobile Micropress Initiative

Utah Poet Laureate Lisa Bickmore visited Davis High School, where she worked with students to create original broadsides about the Great Salt Lake watershed. Photo courtesy of Utah Arts and Museums

Utah Poet Laureate Lisa Bickmore has undertaken a Mobile Micropress project. She is working with writers and writing groups in communities around the state to facilitate the production of small editions of chapbooks, broadsides and other publications. Each edition contains original work and is collaboratively planned and devised by community members, who retain the digital files so that they can produce more copies over time. Bickmore and her team provide technical assistance and facilitate the production process, including design, printing and binding. A special project of the mobile micropress is funded by an Academy of American Poets fellowship for poet laureates, awarded in 2023; in this project, school-age children and young people create broadsides focused on the Great Salt Lake and the watersheds of Utah. All of the publications are being digitally archived to serve as a snapshot of Utah’s creative writing and writing communities at this moment in history. Projects led by previous Utah poets laureate included Mapping Literary Utah, a project by Paisley Rekdal, Bite-Size Poetry and the establishment of Poetry Central. For additional details, contact Utah Division of Arts and Museums Communications/Marketing and Literary Arts Manager Alyssa Hickman Grove.

Connecticut Youth Poet Laureate

The Connecticut Office of the Arts announces the 2024 Youth Poet Laureate, Ziyi Yan. Image courtesy of the Office of the Arts

In addition to having an official state poet laureate, a post currently occupied by Antoinette Brim-Bell, Connecticut appoints a youth poet laureate to celebrate young poets committed to artistic excellence and civic engagement. Inspired by the National Youth Poet Laureate Program, the Connecticut Youth Poet Laureate Program showcases exceptional young poets whose work has a positive social impact. The first youth poet laureate was appointed in 2022. Since 2023, the appointment has been a collaborative effort between the Connecticut Office of the Arts and Urban Word. Connecticut’s 2024 Youth Poet Laureate is Ziyi Yan, a writer and performer from Greenwich, Connecticut, and Beijing, China. In conjunction with her state appointment, she leads free community events designed to celebrate and encourage young people’s involvement in creative writing and poetry. For more information, contact Connecticut Office of the Arts Program Manager Kolton Harris.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




To receive information regarding updates to our newslettter. Please fill out the form below.