It is a signal honor to have been asked to help judge next year’s Montgomery County Poet Laureate competition. The organization flatters me by proclaiming me a “celebrity judge,” which may stretch the term “celebrity” about as far as it can go! Nevertheless, it is a duty I undertake humbly and with the utmost sincerity and enthusiasm. If you’re a poet and resident of Montgomery County in the great state of Pennsylvania, throw your hat in the ring. Click here for competition details. For more information about me, visit my author website.
How does the competition work? Each year MCPL recruits a celebrity poet with a national reputation, who, along with two additional local Delaware Valley poets, adjudicate the submitted manuscripts. The newly selected Montgomery County Poet Laureate is honored with an award in the amount of $500 along with a personalized statement about their work, which is shared through MCPL and other local organizations. The Award is presented during the LitLife event at Rosemont College in Bryn Mawr. The winner will be given an opportunity to read their work and speak to the audience composed of attendees of the day’s event which also features workshops and poetry readings including a Poetry Workshop conducted by the Celebrity Judge of the competition.
Who can compete? Poets of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to submit their poetry for review and adjudication in the annual competition. Poets must also be residents of Montgomery County. The window for submissions generally opens in early December and closes mid-February with the winner to be announced at the end of March.
What is the role of the Poet Laureate? The Poet Laureate functions as an ambassador for poetry in Montgomery County from April 1st of the year of his/her naming to March 31st of the following year. This role includes working with MCPL’s Executive Director, Joanne Leva, to develop a schedule of readings, workshops, and a community service project, which is the cornerstone of the MCPL program. Community Service projects have created permanent resources and ongoing programming for our organization.
Appearances may include the Forgotten Voices Poetry Group, Farley’s Bookshop First Thursday Poetry Reading Series, the Philadelphia Poetry Festival, and the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. The Poet Laureate is asked to attend LitLife (both the year they are named, as well as the following year to discuss the experience). They may also hold the office of “writer-in residence” at the Indian Valley Arts Foundation.
The mission of MCPL is to bring poets together to share their thoughts and ideas about poetry and expose the community to rich poetic traditions. We invite the community to partake in the myriad of free programs and projects lead by our very own Poets Laureate. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the MCPL program regards poetry as a local public art form and offers both awareness of and involvement in an artistic and cultural outlet.
The Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program was started in 1998 by Joanne Leva. As a member of the Indian Valley Arts Foundation, Joanne recognized the value of personal expression through the literary arts and poetry and saw an opportunity to benefit the community, offer broad-based education for people of all ages and improve the access to cultural outlets leading her to form the MCPL.
The Poet Laureate competition includes a community service directive with a program developed by each Poet Laureate to elevate the literary arts in the community, expand their own personal experience and increase overall awareness of the program. As a result of this initiative, MCPL has expanded the many programs available to experience and learn about poetry.
Poet Laureate Adjudication. Three recognized poets, two from the Delaware Valley, and a third “celebrity judge,” are called upon to adjudicate and assign numeric values to the top 25 manuscripts. These values are calculated to determine the winner in a fair and objective way. The winning poet receives a $500 cash award and a year of opportunities to enhance their public profile as featured poets in local events throughout the area in addition to their community outreach project.
What is a Poet Laureate? A Poet Laureate is an individual who composes poems, who has the ability to express poetic ideas in beautiful language, and has been identified as having the highest degree of excellence in poetry. Submissions open in the Fall through February. Winners are announced in April.