Poet Laureate


What is a Poet Laureate?

Arlington County’s Poet Laureate serves as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts and works to advance Arlingtonians’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms. The Poet Laureate represents Arlington’s commitment to fostering a creative environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and community participation.

What are the Arlington County Poet Laureate’s roles and responsibilities?

During each year of his or her two year term, the Poet Laureate will:

  • Write at least two original poems in honor of occasions of special civic significance and present the poems at public readings
  • Officiate at up to three County special events, as needed, by sharing an original work or presenting others’ words of reflection at civic events
  • Serve as a juror for the annual Moving Words Poetry competition and contribute one poem to be displayed on Arlington’s ART Buses along with the winning poems
  • Facilitate community engagement programs, working with Arlington Public Libraries and Arlington Cultural Affairs staff, to engage the public with poetry and the literary arts and bring poetry to a wider audience

Who is Arlington’s current Poet Laureate?

Award-winning poet Courtney LeBlanc has been selected as the third Poet Laureate of Arlington County. Courtney LeBlanc is author of the full-length collections Her Whole Bright Life, winner of the Jack McCarthy Book Prize (Write Bloody, 2023), Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat, 2021), and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2020). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press, and is a fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts (2022).

Who are Arlington’s former Poets Laureate?

Arlington’s first Poet Laureate was Katherine E. Young. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards (University of Arkansas Miller Williams Prize Series, 2014), which was named one of Split This Rock’s “eagerly anticipated” picks for 2014, one of Beltway Poetry’s “Best Books of  2014″ and an Honorable Mention for the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Brockman-Campbell Award. Young’s poems, translations and reviews have appeared in Prairie SchoonerShenandoahThe Iowa Review and many other publications. Young is also the translator of Two Poems by Inna Kabysh; her translations of Russian and Russophone authors have won prizes in international competitions and been published widely in the U.S. and abroad; several have been made into short films. Young is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow.

Arlington's second Poet Laureate was Holly Karapetkova. Holly 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 ReviewAlaska Quarterly ReviewBlackbirdPoetry 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.

Where can I read work by the Poets Laureate?

WATCHRecent reading by Holly Karapetkova

Visit Holly Karapetkova’s website to find links to purchase her books, view her poems, prose, and video poems, and more.

A sampler of Katherine E. Young’s poems is available on her website. Her latest book Day of the Border Guards can be purchased from University of Arkansas Press and is available to borrow through Arlington Public Library.

Read Katherine’s first poem written for Arlington County as Poet Laureate entitled Women’s Work and presented at Libby Garvey’s swearing-in ceremony on December 13, 2016.  Or watch a video of Katherine reading the poem.

Read Columbia Pike Blues, an original poem written by Katherine E. Young for the 2017 Columbia Pike Blues Festival.

How is the Poet Laureate selected?

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, must reside in Arlington during the time of application and for the duration of the appointment, and must demonstrate a track record of experience publishing and/or presenting original poetry within poetry journals, magazines, websites, and/or programs that are not predominantly self-curated, personal websites, or personal blogs.

The open call for Arlington’s third poet laureate was a competitive process, with candidates needing to be at least 18 years of age and residents of the County. Entries were reviewed by Cultural Affairs staff and judge Celeste Doaks.

Doaks is the author of several books of poetry including Not Without Our Laughter: Poems of Humor, Joy, and SexualityCornrows and Cornfields; and American Herstory, which was the winner of Backbone Press’s 2018 chapbook competition and named the best chapbook by Maryland Poet Laureate, Grace Cavalieri. Her multiple accolades include a 2017 Rubys Grant in Literary Arts, a Lucille Clifton Scholarship to attend Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, the 2010 AWP WC&C Scholarship, and residencies at Atlantic Center of the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her journalism has appeared in the Huffington PostVillage VoiceTime Out New York, and Quarterly Black Book Review(QBR). Doaks received her MFA from North Carolina State University and has held teaching positions at East Carolina University, Morgan State University, and Stevenson University. She was also the 2017-2020 Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Delaware.

Who runs the Poet Laureate program?

The Poet Laureate program is managed by the Division of Cultural Affairs in Arlington Economic Development.

Who do I contact for more information about the Poet Laureate program?

For information or questions about the Poet Laureate program please contact Dan Brady, Literary Specialist for Arlington Cultural Affairs at dbrady@arlingtonva.us