Call for Poet Laureate

Olympia's next Poet Laureate to explore issues of equity and inclusion in our community

 TIME CHANGE: The Poet Laureate Jury will be held Thursday, March 25, 5 p.m. (instead of 6 p.m). Register to attend via Zoom

Every two years the City of Olympia selects a Poet Laureate to engage our entire community in the literary arts. Olympia’s take on the position of Poet Laureate is less an honorary title and more about service over status. Duties include:

  • promoting poetry as an art form,
  • expanding access to the literary arts,
  • and encouraging poetry as a community voice that contributes to a sense of place.

Olympia’s next Poet Laureate will be called specifically to utilize the power of poetry and language to contribute insight, foster understanding and support healing around issues of equity and inclusion in our community.

COVID-19 considerations

The arts are deeply tied to community, and as such, have been extraordinarily affected by this pandemic and the inability to gather. These times and this opportunity conversely can offer the opportunity to rethink engagement – to meet the changing needs of audiences by working in a COVID safe way.

Poet Laureate activities should be COVID responsive and must meet local and state guidelines.

Important details

  • Application deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 4, 2021
  • Four applications must be received for the selection process to go forward.
  • Appointment extends through December 31, 2022
  • $1500 stipend per year.
  • All practicing poets, over the age of 18, who live or work in the City of Olympia are invited to apply.
  • The appointed Poet Laureate will utilize the power of poetry and language to contribute insight, understanding and healing to explore issues of equity and inclusion.

Submission calendar

  • January 20, 2021: Application open
  • March 4, 2021, 11:59 p.m.: Deadline for receipt of submissions
  • Jury - Thursday, March 25, 5 p.m. via Zoom - Jurors may select up to four finalists for interview. The panel also reserves the right to not select any applicants, if it so chooses.
  • Finalist interviews - Thursday, April 1, 5 p.m.
  • April 8, 2021. 6 p.m.: Arts Commission reviews jury recommendation. Agenda with Link
  • April 13, 2021 - 5:30 p.m.: Arts Commission recommendation goes to City Council for review. Agenda with Link


Applicants must:

  • Live or work within Olympia city limits or the Urban Growth Area.
  • 18 years or older
  • Be a practicing poet, dedicated to producing poetry (in any form, genre or style) on a regular basis
  • Speak, read, and write English. Recognizing the diverse languages represented in the community bilingual and multilingual poets are encouraged to apply.


  • The Poet Laureate appointment term is from contract signing through December 31, 2022.


  • The Poet Laureate will be paid a $1,500 honoraria per year ($3,000 total).
  • There is also up to $750 per year available for agreed-upon reimbursable expenses.
  • The Poet Laureate must purchase a City of Olympia Business license and insurance to City specifications. Insurance is estimated at $250-$500; funds may be drawn from reimbursable expenses.

Scope of work

  • Each selected Poet Laureate will enter into an agreement with the City, and work with City Staff to determine a final scope of work.
  • The selected Poet Laureate will offer a minimum of 2 instructional workshops per year, and participate in Arts Walk spring or fall of each year. In addition, each Poet Laureate will work with the City’s Arts Program Staff to plan 6 additional hours of contact time with the public per year, that actively contributes to and advances Olympia’s literary community.
  • On average, the Olympia Poet Laureate has spent 40 hours a quarter (6 months) doing the work of the position, including projects and administration.
  • If a poetry reading at an official City occasion is one item on the agreed scope of work, the City reserves the right to review the proposed poem(s) beforehand (either their own or the work of another poet(s)), and accept or decline the reading. If the reading is declined, the Poet Laureate will replace the event in their schedule.
  • Poets agree to sign a contract with the City regarding their scope of work. Poets also agree to responsibly handle administrative duties in association with the program.
  • Poets agree that the City of Olympia may photograph them during their Poet Laureate workshops and projects.

Submission guidelines

To be considered, applicants must meet all eligibility criteria and submit a packet including all requested materials. Incomplete applications and extra material will not be considered. Applicants must provide:

  • Resume
  • 5 written poetry work samples (published or self-published)
  • 1 video recording sample of a poetry reading or performance of one of the written work samples.
  • A 1,000 word proposal of how they would engage with the public as the City’s Poet Laureate, including audience, community engagement strategy, and samples of workshops or projects that would support the focus or theme of their appointment.

Selection criteria

Four applications must be received for the selection process to go forward.

Artists should bear in mind that the audiences will be broad-based and of all ages, and in representing the City’s inclusive, non-partisan stance, must use discretion when acting in the capacity of the City’s Poet Laureate.

  • Aesthetic Quality: Do the written or recorded work samples exhibit strong aesthetic merit? Are the works consistently strong? Does the applicant produce poetry on a regular basis?
  • Community Involvement: Does the applicant demonstrate a history of involvement and activity within the literary arts?
  • Potential for Engagement: Does the proposal support the poet’s ability to engage Olympia’s citizens in meaningful ways to further the literary arts in our community?


  • Kellie Braseth, Director of Strategic Communications, City of Olympia
  • Frederick Dobler, Chair, Olympia Arts Commission
  • Sady Sparks, Olympia Poet Laureate 2019-2020
  • Erin Tail, Poet
  • Thresea “Mama T” Yost, Curator of Futures Rising exhibition at SPSCC Leonor R. Fuller Gallery

Questions or assistance in applying

Contact Stephanie Johnson at 360.709.2678 or

The City of Olympia is committed to the non-discriminatory treatment of all persons in the delivery of services and resources.