Apply to be the State Poet Laureate
The deadline to apply for the role of Washington State Poet Laureate has passed. Sign up for our email list to get further updates on the position.
Interested in becoming the primary spokesperson, supporter, and promoter of poetry in Washington State? Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission are accepting applications for Washington State’s next Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate builds awareness and appreciation of poetry, including Washington’s legacy of poetry, through public readings, workshops, and presentations in communities throughout the state. The new laureate will serve from April 15, 2021, to April 14, 2023.
Selection of the Washington State Poet Laureate is governed by state regulation and coordinated by ArtsWA and Humanities Washington. The state Poet Laureate is appointed by the governor to serve a two-year term. To be considered, applicants must meet all eligibility requirements. Applications are submitted online and the deadline to apply is Friday, December 4. Those wishing to apply are encouraged to watch a 40 minute recorded webinar presentation and Q&A with the leaders of ArtsWA and Humanities Washington about the program here.
Read below for more information.
The Washington State Poet Laureate serves to build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations in culturally and geographically diverse communities across the state. From a small café in Twisp to a festival in Wapato to a large university auditorium in Bellingham or Walla Walla, the Poet Laureate works to connect people to the power of poetry and its life-changing possibilities. Poets Laureate also undertake a project during their tenure that draws upon their skills and interests, to reach new audiences, connect communities using poetry, and/or amplify new voices.
In April 2007 the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that recognized the value of poetry to the culture and heritage of the state by establishing the Washington State Poet Laureate. Washington State boasts a rich legacy in poetics that extends from the occupational poetry of loggers and fishers to the state’s first unofficial Poet Laureate, Ella Rhoads Higginson. Its traditions embrace the well-known Northwest School (Theodore Roethke and his students Carolyn Kizer and Richard Hugo among others), native poet Vi Hilbert, and beloved Filipino immigrant writer Carlos Bulosan, just to name a few. The Washington State Poet Laureate is someone who has made their own significant contribution to the state’s poetic legacy, and who has committed to serving as an ambassador for poetry to audiences throughout Washington. The Governor of Washington State appoints the Laureate based on recommendations from a geographically and culturally diverse panel of representatives from Washington’s literary community. Once appointed, Humanities Washington and ArtsWA provide funding for the honoraria, travel and project expenses, as well as administrative support for the Laureate.
In 2020, using an equity lens, ArtsWA and Humanities Washington updated the guidelines for the Poet Laureate program to ensure that poets of varied styles, backgrounds, abilities, and geographic regions are inspired to apply to serve. View the specific changes made to the 2020 process here.
Poets who have served as Washington State Poet Laureate are:
Sam Green (2007-2009)
Kathleen Flenniken (2012-2014)
Elizabeth Austen (2014-2016)
Tod Marshall (2016-2018)
Claudia Castro Luna (2018-2021)
ArtsWA and Humanities Washington work together to manage the program. They co-facilitate the nomination process as established by law RCW 43.46.070, and provide funding and administrative support to the Laureate after he/she/they are appointed by the Governor.
Washington State Poets Laureate represent some of the best and most generous of Washington poets. The duties of the poet laureate require public interaction, some travel, and willingness to undertake a project of the Laureate’s choosing during their two-year term. Certainly, it is an honor to serve as Washington State Poet Laureate, but Laureates report that they also grow in unique and significant ways as artists, advance their careers, and immensely appreciate the opportunity to meet new people and learn about the entire state.
The Selection Process
The Washington State Poet Laureate serves a two-year term, renewable in rare circumstances.
The selection process begins with a call for nominations the fall of the year prior to the start of the next Poet Laureate’s term. Applications/nominations are submitted using an online portal and a panel of five representatives from around the state score each application. The panel identifies finalists (generally up to three) to be interviewed via Zoom. After the Zoom interviews, the panel makes a recommendation to the Governor, who appoints at their discretion. Humanities Washington and ArtsWA staff do not score applications or make recommendations on candidates during the selection process but do help facilitate the process and answer technical questions about the support that their respective organizations are able to provide.
Candidates are reviewed in the following areas:
- Experience as a poet, including proof of accomplishment in the field
- Compelling public speaker
- Committed ambassador for poetry
- Demonstrated ability to engage a variety of audiences
- Lived experience that highlights and/or connects the program to new audiences
- Demonstrated interest/experience in promoting equity and inclusion through the arts and humanities.
- Ability to independently plan and execute projects.
- Lives in a region not represented by the most recent Poet Laureate. (Current Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna resides in Seattle, therefore poets from the Southwest, Central or Eastern Washington Regions will receive strong preference in the 2020 search. View the regional map.
If selected as a finalist, applicants/nominees will be asked to participate in a Zoom interview with the selection panel during which they will have the opportunity to:
- Introduce themselves and their work
- Discuss their responses to the application questions
- Introduce and read up to three poems as if presenting to a general audience
- Ask questions and participate in general conversation with the panelists.
The Application / Nomination Process
Candidates may self-nominate (apply) or be nominated by a third party*. To nominate yourself or another poet, you will be asked to provide the following for the nominee:
- Personal/contact information
- Brief biography
- Details on your/the nominee’s work, accomplishments and skills in the following areas:
- interest in the position, influences, and work
- poetry promotion and outreach
- diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
- project management
- CV or resume
- Links to work samples such as publications, video recordings of readings, documentation of performance history, including location, type of event, audience size and type, etc., or other creative methods that showcase their work
- Up to three references (if you are nominating another person for the position, one of these references should come from you and state explicitly that you are the nominating party)
*In the case of third-party nomination, the person nominating should confirm candidate’s interest in advance.
How to Apply
Applicants apply through our online Foundant portal. View the list of application questions as a pdf document here.
When applicants click on the online application link, they will be taken to a login page and asked to create an account. Once this account has been created, the applicant should log in, and on the “Application Page” click on the blue link titled “Washington State Poet Laureate Application 2021- 2023” and begin completing the application. Applicants can draft and update applications prior to submitting a finished application using this system.
Applicants who have previously applied for the Poet Laureate position using the online system should log in using their previously created email address/password combination. (If you have previously created an account but have forgotten the password, there is a link in the login site to create a new password.) Once logged in, you will see the “Application Status Page” which gives an overview of previously submitted applications. To access the 2021-2023 application, look to the upper left portion of the page and click on “Apply” under the “Requests” heading. Applicants can draft and update applications prior to submitting a finished application using this system.
Complete List of Supplemental Documents