Chapel Hill Poet Laureate position available after Suitt’s inaugural term ends


As the term of Chapel Hill’s first Poet Laureate, CJ Suitt, comes to an end, the Town of Chapel Hill is looking for a new person to fill the role.

Suitt held the position for three years and worked with the city to determine criteria for future Poet Laureates.

The position is designed to inspire creativity and improve connections in the poetry community – as well as civic and social life within Chapel Hill – according to a city press release.

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

“Our community has a rich history of poets who have lived here and passed through here,” she said. “It is an artistic medium that we must promote and with which we must participate.”

The new Poet Laureate will begin their term on January 1, 2023. The term will last for two years, ending in December 2024. The nominated Poet will receive an award of $3,000.

The application deadline was recently extended to 5 p.m. on Monday, September 19.

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

Chapel Hill Public Library manager and executive director of community arts and culture, Susan Brown, said the committee would review all applications after the deadline and make its recommendation to Chapel Hill City Council in November. The board will then make its final decision and approval.

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 the city did not specifically define what it was looking for in the next Poet Laureate. She added that she would even like to see UNC student poets apply for the position.

“There are as many different types of poets as there are people, so we’re very open to different types of poets,” Brown said. “I think the most important thing is their willingness to engage in the community and be present in the community.”

She also said that Suitt had suggested creating a position for a Young Poet Laureate and she hopes the idea can be developed further in the years to come.

“(Suitt) was very into workshops and mentorship for young people,” she said. “It’s probably something that any Poet Laureate will always be interested in.”

Bartoletta said the city 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, past and present, Brown said.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the city is working to bring local civil rights history to the surface. The next Poet Laureate may be able to help the company through poetry readings and other events.

Hemminger added that during his tenure, Suitt assembled 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 amazing, and it stays with you a little longer than applauding and cheering on an event.”

The next Poet Laureate will work closely with Chapel Hill Town staff and stakeholders to create a schedule of ‘deliverables’ for their time in the post. This can include writing poetry to present at community events, holding workshops, and finding ways for poetry to be enjoyed by the community.

Bartoletta said the process will be collaborative, though primarily guided by whoever takes on the position of next Poet Laureate.

The nomination for Chapel Hill’s next Poet Laureate is available on the Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture website.


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