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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Calling all poets: for the first time, the Alachua County Commission is seeking a poet laureate

Discussion about this position began in early 2019, said Gina Peebles, the assistant county manager for community and administrative services. Alachua County’s Arts Council discussed the qualifications in January, which include Alachua County residency, a love for poetry and an active desire to participate in community affairs.

As for the job itself, Peebles said the new laureate will write original poetry for various county-sponsored events, during which they would be invited to be a part of the ceremony. These events can include ribbon cuttings and building dedications.

A $2,000 annual honorarium will be provided to the selected poet laureate.

“I can imagine that maybe one of their first jobs would be coming to a Board of County Commissioners meeting and reading a poem at one of our board meetings,” Peebles said.

Applications are due Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. and the chosen laureate will be paid $2,000 per year.

“Poetry is an art, and we want to recognize and appreciate that here in our community,” Peebles said. “Our Board of County Commissioners also recognizes that there was an appreciation gap and that, by having a poet laureate, that would help fill that gap and bring additional attention to spoken art.”

After being first championed by Commissioner Robert Hutchinson, the rest of the commission embraced the idea, said Mark Sexton, the communications and legislative affairs director for Alachua County.

Though the county has programs that support art institutions, theater, dance and music, sometimes poetry is a little more difficult for the government to support and get involved in, Sexton said.

“The position of poet laureate would give poetry a great platform and hopefully encourage more interest in poetry,” Sexton said.

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