Poet Laureate FAQs


Poets, ready for the details? Your complete application must include the following:

3-5 original poems showing excellence, originality, creative risk-taking, and authenticity.
You may submit typed poems or audio recordings so long as your written submission totals no more than 10 pages typed; or no more than 10 combined minutes. You may submit a combination of written poetry and audio so long as we receive 3-5 distinct pieces. DO NOT include your name on written poems or audio tracks. Preliminary judging is anonymous. Be sure your written work is spell-checked and your performed work is good enough quality for judges to hear you. Audio files must be hosted on a site like SoundCloud or DivShare first. You will then link to each poem from your application.

• Name and contact for an Adult Sponsor
If you become a semi-finalist, he or she will be asked to write you a letter of support May 22. Tip: Ask someone for this well in advance!

• Artist Statement
Introduce yourself. Tell us who you are and what poetry means to you (1,000 characters).

• List of any Awards or Community Service

Apply Now


What does it mean to be the Youth Poet Laureate and what is the time commitment?

The Youth Poet Laureate is the top literary honor you can win in your city. You’ll be a hometown hero! If you are chosen as a finalist, you will have opportunities to meet experienced writers, publish your work and appear at public events throughout the year. You may also be asked to share your experiences through blogs, videos and social media. The winner in each city must complete the full year in order to receive their scholarship. The time commitment will vary and you will not be required to do anything that causes a hardship.

What if I am not really comfortable in the spotlight?

We know lots of poets prefer the page to the stage. This competition is for all kinds of poets, writing in all different styles. As Youth Poet Laureate you will be in the spotlight, but you will also receive support to gain public speaking skills and develop your strengths.

Why aren’t family members eligible to win, and does this apply to me?

To be fair, we cannot consider applications from family members of current judges, funders and committee members who have influence over the contest criteria or outcome. If someone in your family is actively working on this year’s contest, you are not eligible. This “conflict of interest” policy applies only to those partners who are “coordinating, influencing or judging” the 2015 competition. Call us if you have any questions.

What does it mean to be a finalist? When will I be notified if I win?

All finalists will be notified by May 5, 2015, at which time you’ll be asked to provide a letter of recommendation from a teacher or adult sponsor (due by May 22). The final winner will be announced in July 2015.

I am a teacher or youth worker; can I nominate someone?

Yes! You can submit the application on behalf of a young person as long as you can provide complete information for the nominee(s), including 3-5 poems, name of an Adult Sponsor and accurate contact information. You may nominate up to 3 students. Please confirm their ability to complete the program year (August 2015- August 2016) should they advance to the final round.

Who are the judges?

The first round of judging will be completed in May by a diverse group of experts from literacy, arts and educational organizations. The final round will be conducted in June by local celebrity authors and artists. Past judges have included state poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, poets and playwrights Chinaka Hodge and Aimee Suzara, community organizer and Poetry for the People alum Maria Poblet, literary journal editor Kiala Givehand, local poet/publisher Raphael Cohen, NAACP image award nominee Arisa White, Kelsey Street Press member MG Roberts, and more than a dozen local authors and community leaders.

If I win, how will I receive the $5,000 award?

Scholarship funds will be sent directly to the school or arts program of your choice. You must complete your full year as poet laureate to receive your award. Adjustments to this policy will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

What if the poet laureate doesn’t complete the full program year?

We expect a pool of very talented applicants, from which we will name a second place winner. This person will step into the role if the youth poet laureate is unable to finish the year.

I live in San Leandro, Piedmont or Berkeley, can I apply?

You may only apply if you live in Oakland or attend school in Oakland. While we aren’t able to expand the contest to other cities right now, we welcome interested agencies from other cities to contact us with questions.

Who can I contact with questions?

Lana at 510-238-7613 or e-mail: oaklandpoets@gmail.com


How do I submit my poetry?

You choose! You can submit your poems in text format or by audio file. Either enter poems in plain text or provide a link to audio files of spoken word material hosted on a site like Sound Cloud or divShare. Remember that your name and other personal identifiers should not be included in your poems or audio account. The first round of judging is anonymous.

When I copy and paste my poems, my commas and quotes appear as weird characters. What should I do?

Try saving your poems as “text only” (file extension .txt) from your word processing application. Then re-paste each poem into the form. Or, try using a text editor like notepad or www.editpad.org, which defaults to plain text (without formatting). While editing your work is important, you will not be penalized for errors created by our online application process. We know these aren’t your fault.

Do I have to finish my entire application in one day?

No, after you log in you can save your progress and finish later. Just make sure you remember your login and password to log back in and finish before the deadline of April 3, 2015

I don’t have Internet access. How do I apply?

Visit your local library or school. Or, call us for in-person help and computer access. Call Lana at 510-238-7613

How do I go back to change something in my application?

Go through the online application; select Save & Continue at the bottom of each page. Changes and additions may be made to your entry before final submission. Make any edits, corrections and changes from the Summary page at the end of your entry. However, once you click “Submit” no more changes are allowed. So, use Save & Continue to save your work; only click Submit when you are completely done.

Where do I upload audio files of my spoken word material?

There are several popular websites that support sharing audio files. Check out Sound Cloud or DivShare.com, but remember not to use your real name on your Profile page. The first round of judging is anonymous.

Who can I contact if I’m having technical trouble with my application?

Contact support@proartsgallery.org