Oakland Youth Poet Laureate



About The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Program

Oakland Youth Poet Laureate: In partnership with the Oakland Public Library, this program is the first of its kind. The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program is an unprecedented citywide effort to celebrate literacy through poetry and connect young writers to far-reaching opportunities. Each year we accept submissions from talented young writers (ages 13-18) to be considered for the city’s top literary honor. The Laureate earns an educational scholarship and embarks on a year of opportunities as an ambassador for literacy, arts and youth expression. In addition to the annual poetry competition, the program includes year-round workshops, public performances, publishing, and mentoring for young writers.

Calling on all Oakland based poets ages 13-18 to enter The 5th Annual Oakland Youth Poet Laureate competition! Become the next Oakland Youth Poet Laureate 2016. Show us your best work! Your truth. Your style. Your voice.

The Laureate will receive:
• A $5,000 scholarship
• Leadership opportunities and mentoring

Who can enter?
• Only residents of Oakland, CA may apply
• Applicants must be 13-18 years old by April 1st, 2016 (application deadline)
• Poems will be judged based on Content, Craft, and Voice. If you are entered into the final round, applications will be additionally judged on Leadership and Performance.

What do you need to apply?
• An artist statement
• 3 poems
• A sponsor to provide a recommendation (only when you are selected as a Finalist)

Apply Online Judging Criteria Laureate FAQs.

If you cannot apply online, you can mail a paper application to:
Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Submission
Oakland Public Library
Teen Services Department
125 14th St.
Oakland, CA 94612

The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate is a joint program of Youth Speaks and the Oakland Public Library in collaboration with more than a dozen community partners and funded with the generous support of The Friends of the Oakland Public Library and the Youth Speaks Youth Poet Laureate Fund.



2015 Youth Poet Laureate – Tova Ricardo

Sixteen-year-old Tova Ricardo, a junior at Bentley High School, is Oakland’s 2015 Youth Poet Laureate. Tova began writing poetry in 6th grade and fell in love with the ways that words and characters tie together to spark emotion and controversy inside the reader. Tova soon realized that her first loves were literature and poetry, and knew that she had found the one place where she wouldn’t have to conform to society’s expectations. The meeting of pen to paper allows Tova to claim her freedom of expression and the emotional terrain that surrounds the construction of human identity. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, family dynamics, community, and social stigma crackle like electricity throughout Tova’s work.

Book Poet Laureate

Meet Oakland’s Laureates

  • Tova Ricardo Bentley High School – 2015 Poet Laureate
  • Sophie Elkin Oakland School for the Arts – 2014 Poet Laureate
  • Obasi Davis Berkeley High School – 2013 Poet Laureate
  • Stephanie Yun Skyline High School – 2012 Poet Laureate

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Youth Speaks