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Thursday September 29th

Chapel Hill poet laureate position available following end of Suitt's inaugural term

DTH Photo Illustration. Chapel Hill is looking for a new poet laureate. Taken on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Chapel Hill is looking for a new poet laureate. Taken on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.

As Chapel Hill's first poet laureate CJ Suitt's term comes to an end, the Town of Chapel Hill is searching for someone new to fill the role. 

Suitt served in the role for three years and worked with the Town to determine the criteria for future poet laureates.

The position is designed to inspire creativity and enhance connections in the poetry community  — as well as the civic and social life within Chapel Hill — according to a news release from the Town. 

Melissa Bartoletta, Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture marketing and communications coordinator, said that poetry is a great way for people to connect with one another. 

“Our community has a rich history of poets that have lived here and passed through here," she said. "It's an artistic medium that we need to promote and participate in and with."

The new poet laureate will begin their term on Jan. 1, 2023. The term will last two years, through December 2024. The appointed poet will receive compensation of $3,000. 

The application deadline was recently extended until 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 19. 

The selection committee for the position will include current Chapel Hill Poet Laureate Suitt, a Community Arts & Culture staff member, a Chapel Hill Public Library staff member, a Chapel Hill Cultural Arts Commission member and a Chapel Hill Town Council member. 

The Director of the Chapel Hill Public Library and Executive Director of Community Arts & Culture Susan Brown said the committee will review all applications after the deadline and will make their recommendation to the Chapel Hill Town Council in November. The council will then make its final decision and approval.

In order to be eligible to apply, applicants must be a poet with published work and have projects that have been active within the last five years. Applicants must also have a personal or professional connection to Chapel Hill. 

Brown said that the Town isn’t specifically defining what they’re looking for in the next poet laureate. She added that she would even love to see UNC student poets apply for the position.

“There are just as many different types of poets as there are people, so we're very much wide open to different types of poets,” Brown said. “I think the biggest thing is their willingness to engage in the community and be present in the community."

She also said that Suitt suggested creating a position for a youth poet laureate and she hopes the idea can be developed further in the coming years. 

“(Suitt) was very plugged into youth workshops and mentoring," she said. "That's probably something that will always be of interest with any poet laureate."

Bartoletta said the Town is excited to review applications and see how potential poet laureates bring the position to life. 

Another important role of the Chapel Hill poet laureate is to help the community mark and remember important milestones, both in the past and present, Brown said.  

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the Town is working to bring local civil rights history to the surface. The next poet laureate might be able to aid the endeavor through poetry readings and other events.

Hemminger added that during his term, Suitt put together spoken word pieces for a variety of events.

“He usually weaves things from the past into things that are now — and he does it in a way that’s an art form," she said. "It’s incredible, and it stays with you a little longer than clapping and cheering for an event."

The next poet laureate will work closely with Chapel Hill Town staff and stakeholders to create a timeline of "deliverables" for their time in the position. This may include writing poetry to be performed at community events, holding workshops and finding ways for poetry to be enjoyed by the community.

Bartoletta said that the process will be collaborative, although mainly guided by the person who takes the position as the next poet laureate. 

The application for the next Chapel Hill poet laureate is available on the Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture website.


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