PORT ANGELES — An inaugural program will name a poet laureate for Clallam County, in the hopes that poetry can help heal divisions and bring people together.
“For the last couple of years, I have been looking at a variety of different strategies to change the conversation we seem to be having, to remind us that we share common ground,” said county Commissioner Mark Ozias on Friday.
“Poetry can be a really helpful way to do that.”
The program is being created through a partnership between the North Olympic Library System and Clallam County.
Applications open Monday, Oct. 17, at nols.org/poet and close on Friday, Dec. 2.
The poet laureate term will be from April 2023 through March 2025.
Ozias brought the idea to the library system, said Clair Dunlap, youth services librarian, who is also the lead organizer of the poet laureate program, which is open to adults 18 and older.
“He has been working with me to decide the whole process as we get it off the ground,” she said Friday.
“It’s going to be brand new for the county.”
The county will provide a $5,000 annual stipend for the two-year position, for a total of $10,000.
Dunlap sees the program as a way “to bring communities together through creativity, especially during times when folks have been isolated. It’s a way to come together positively.
“We can see what we have in common and learn from each other through poetry,” she said.
Poets 18 years and older who live in Clallam County and have a passion for bringing poetry to their community are invited to apply for the inaugural position.
It is not necessary that they be published.
“While that might speak to some of their fitness for this position, it’s not a requirement,” Dunlap said.
Applicants will answer 11 narrative questions as well as each providing a small sample of their work.
“We’re looking for applicants from a broad pool,” Ozias said. “We would welcome anyone who is interested to go through the application process and submit some poetry.”
The ability to promote poetry and project management skills also are a consideration.
“One of our main goals is to bring a variety of perspectives throughout the county,” Dunlap said.
The poet laureate will be expected to participate in or host about two events per month at locations throughout Clallam County.
“The poet laureate will bring poetry to residents of the county by participating in events, leading workshops and championing the community power of the written and spoken word,” program organizers said in a press release.
“Poetry helps us to see, understand and think about our community and our world through a different lens and challenges us to reconsider the common ties that bind us together,” program representatives said.
The poet laureate will be selected by a committee of community arts leaders, practitioners and enthusiasts from across the county.
Notification of the appointment will be made by March 2023.
Poets are invited to join an in-person information session at the Port Angeles Main Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, or meet virtually to learn more about the program at a Zoom information session at noon Tuesday, Oct. 25.
Ozias hopes the program will help to bring people together.
“I think that there is a lot of encouragement out there to inspire us to fight with each other, to be divided, to see each other as the other,” he said. “There are not necessarily a lot of reminders of the common ground we share.
“It can be difficult to talk about because of the monetization of division,” Ozias added.
“The political climate is incredibly divisive right now, to the extent that this extends beyond politics and into our daily lives,” Ozias said. “It’s incredibly destructive.
“Hopefully, this will inspire people.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].