Arlington Poet Laureate Wins $50k Fellowship

Published on August 02, 2022

Holly Karapetkova

Arlington County Poet Laureate Receives $50,000 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship

Award-winning poet and Marymount University Professor Holly Karapetkova will launch an Arlington Youth Poetry Anthology.

The American Academy of Poets has selected Arlington’s Poet Laureate, award-winning poet and Marymount University professor Holly Karapetkova, for a 2022 American Academy of Poets Laureate Fellowship.

The $50,000 awards are given to honor poets of literary merit appointed to serve in civic positions and to enable them to undertake meaningful, impactful, and innovative projects that engage their fellow residents, including youth, with poetry, helping to address issues important to their communities, as well as create new work. The fellowships were established in partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Read more about the 2019 Poets Laureate Fellows, 2020 Poets Laureate Fellows, and 2021 Poets Laureate Fellows and their civic projects.

The majority of the award monies will fund a project that Karapetkova had already put in motion: an Arlington Youth Poetry Anthology. With seed money from Arlington Arts, Karapetkova formed partnerships with DC’s hip hop-based educational non-profit Words Beats Life, and the local nonprofit and publisher Day Eight. Arlington County public school students and students who live in Arlington County are invited to submit poems. The anthology will be augmented by a series of readings and workshops featuring the published poets, as well as lesson plans and reading experiences designed to engage youth through poetry.

As poet laureate, I feel a strong desire to lift up the voices of the youth in my community and to use poetry as a way to bring people together, to find a sense of community and healing,” states Karapetkova, taking note of the volatile political discourse and the pandemic that have marked recent years. “In times of distress, poetry provides a language for our hurt and frustration and an outlet for our expression of grief and anger. It can provide a means for healing.

Serving as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts, Karapetkova’s charge is to raise Arlingtonians’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms. She has leaned into the work of encouraging and uplifting youth poets during her tenure. As such, with support from Words Beats Life, Karapetkova initiated an Arlington Youth Laureate, Charlotte Maleski, in February 2021. Kashvi Ramani assumes the title of Arlington Youth Laureate for 2022, however Maleski will continue as co-editor of the Anthology. Karapetkova has spearheaded new projects such as Visual Verse, a month-long traveling exhibition which projected onto public buildings works by the poets laureate of the United States of America, Virginia, Washington DC, and DC’s youth poet laureate. She adjudicated the adult iteration of Arlington’s Moving Words poetry competition, which places winning poems by local poets on Arlington Transit ART buses. Karapetkova also participated in poetry readings at events including the 2021 Rosslyn Jazz Festival, and the 2022 Columbia Pike Blues Festival.

Poetry has the power to capture the spirit and immediacy of the moment as powerfully as a photograph,” says Arlington Cultural Affairs Director Michelle Isabelle-Stark, who adds that the Academy’s honor speaks volumes about Ms. Karapetkova’s esteem in the field. “This Award will help support our Poet Laureate’s efforts to amplify the voices of the next generation of poets in Arlington and is a priceless gift to our community.

About Holly Karapetkova

Karapetkova is the author of two award-winning books of poetry, Towline, winner of the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize from Cloudbank Books, and Words We Might One Day Say, winner of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Prize for Poetry. Her poetry, prose, and translations have appeared recently in The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Blackbird, Poetry Northwest, and many other places. She is a professor in the Department of Literature and Languages at Marymount University in Arlington where she lives with her husband and two children. Karapetkova’s appointment follows that of Arlington’s inaugural poet laureate, Katherine E. Young, appointed in 2016.

About Arlington Arts

Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development, delivers public activities and programs as Arlington Arts. The division’s mission is to create, support, and promote the arts, connecting artists and community to reflect the diversity of Arlington. Cultural Affairs provides material support to artists and arts organizations in the form of grants, facilities, and theater technology; integrates award-winning public art into the County’s built environment; and presents high-quality performing, literary, visual and new media programs across the County.