The honorary position would be a creative ambassador for the city, collaborator with other artists, and would receive $10,000 honorarium over two years. Apply by September 1.
Poets, spoken word artists, and other literary artists living in Berkeley can apply to be Berkeley’s Poet Laureate, a champion of the City’s literary traditions and communities.
Berkeley residents' applications would be considered through a group review and evaluation process for the honorary position, which comes with a $10,000 honorarium.
The City’s Civic Arts Program, in partnership with the Berkeley Public Library, is seeking an experienced poet with deep ties to the city to serve in the position.
A two-step application process will begin with an online application, followed by an interview process for the second round.
The purpose of the Poet Laureate program is to:
- champion Berkeley’s rich poetry, spoken word, and literary arts communities
- honor a Berkeley poet to serve as a creative ambassador of the city
- serve as an aesthetic voice and collaborator with the broader arts community
- provide mentorship to develop literary artists
- continue Berkeley’s historic tradition of free speech
Complete the online application to be the Poet Laureate by 11:59pm on September 1, 2023.
New, open process with creation of Poet Laureate Program
To be eligible, applicants must be current residents of Berkeley and at least 18 years old. For poets under 18, there is also the option to apply for the Berkeley Public Library’s Youth Poet Laureate program.
A thorough review by the selection panel will follow in October, comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds in the literary arts field located in the greater Bay Area. Finalist interviews will take place in November, and the Civic Arts Commission will make the final selection on December 6, 2023, at 6:00 pm. The two-year term will begin January 1, 2024.
Requirements of the position include:
- Produce one (1) original poem inspired by or related to Berkeley
- Coordinate at least one (1) public reading event per year (at least two—total—over two years)
- Recite a poem at up to five (5) City and/or Library events per year (up to 10—total—over two years)
- Meet Berkeley’s Youth Poet Laureate, with the goal of a continued mentorship
- Participate in a Civic Arts staff-coordinated video recording of original poetry
- Serve as a Selection Panelist for the next Poet Laureate selection process
- If applicable, provide mentorship to the Berkeley high schooler participating in the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition
In addition to the position, the selected Poet Laureate will be awarded an honorarium of $10,000 for their two-year service term.
The honorarium will be disbursed in two installments. In January 2024, upon assuming the role, the appointee will receive an initial payment of $5,000. The remaining $5,000 will be awarded in January 2025, marking the halfway point of their tenure.
Celebrating poetry in Berkeley
The Poet Laureate pilot program is a joint project of the Berkeley Public Library and Civic Arts Program. Though a previous appointment has been made in the past, this is the first formalized, open selection process for the appointment.
This program’s development was sparked by the resignation of Berkeley First Poet Laureate, Rafael Jesús González, who was appointed to the position in September 2017.
To develop the program with key staff from Civic Arts and the Library, an 11-member advisory committee made up of Bay Area literary artists (including González) convened to provide input in shaping the review criteria and service requirements.
Send questions or comments via email.
Apply for the Poet Laureate program before September 1 and share with literary artists in Berkeley.
- Poet Laureate Program: Application, Guidelines
- Civic Arts Program
- Berkeley Public Library: Youth Poet Laureate program
Artist Credit: Pancho Pescador - Wall mural "African Beauty" at Jeronimus Alley, Berkeley. Note this is part of a larger mural.