Washington State Poets Laureate
Washington State Poets Laureate left to right: Claudia Castro Luna, current Poet Laureate; Tod Marshall (2016-18); Elizabeth Austen (2014-16); Kathleen Flenniken (2012-14); and Sam Green (2007-09).

Apply to be the next State Poet Laureate

Interested in becoming the primary spokesperson, supporter, and promoter of poetry in Washington State? Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission are accepting applications for Washington State’s next Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate builds awareness and appreciation of poetry, including Washington’s legacy of poetry, through public readings, workshops, and presentations in communities throughout the state. The new laureate will serve from April 15, 2021, to April 14, 2023.

Selection of the Washington State Poet Laureate is governed by state regulation and coordinated by ArtsWA and Humanities Washington. The state Poet Laureate is appointed by the governor to serve a two-year term. To be considered, applicants must meet all eligibility requirements. Applications are submitted online and the deadline to apply is Friday, December 4.

In 2020, using an equity lens, ArtsWA and Humanities Washington updated the guidelines for the Poet Laureate program to ensure that poets of varied styles, backgrounds, abilities, and geographic regions are inspired to apply to serve. View the specific changes made to the 2020 process here.

The Selection Process

The Washington State Poet Laureate serves a two-year term, renewable in rare circumstances.

The selection process begins with a call for nominations the fall of the year prior to the start of the next Poet Laureate’s term. Applications/nominations are submitted using an online portal and a panel of five representatives from around the state score each application. The panel identifies finalists (generally up to three) to be interviewed via Zoom. After the Zoom interviews, the panel makes a recommendation to the Governor, who appoints at their discretion. Humanities Washington and ArtsWA staff do not score applications or make recommendations on candidates during the selection process but do help facilitate the process and answer technical questions about the support that their respective organizations are able to provide.

Candidates are reviewed in the following areas:

  • Experience as a poet, including proof of accomplishment in the field
  • Compelling public speaker
  • Committed ambassador for poetry
  • Demonstrated ability to engage a variety of audiences
  • Lived experience that highlights and/or connects the program to new audiences
  • Demonstrated interest/experience in promoting equity and inclusion through the arts and humanities.
  • Ability to independently plan and execute projects.
  • Lives in a region not represented by the most recent Poet Laureate. (Current Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna resides in Seattle, therefore poets from the Southwest, Central or Eastern Washington Regions will receive strong preference in the 2020 search. View the regional map.

If selected as a finalist, applicants/nominees will be asked to participate in a Zoom interview with the selection panel during which they will have the opportunity to:

  • Introduce themselves and their work
  • Discuss their responses to the application questions
  • Introduce and read up to three poems as if presenting to a general audience
  • Ask questions and participate in general conversation with the panelists.

For a detailed timeline for the 2020 selection process for the 2021-2023 Washington State Poet Laureate, click here. View the scoring rubric used by the selection panel click here.

The Application / Nomination Process

Candidates may self-nominate (apply) or be nominated by a third party*. To nominate yourself or another poet, you will be asked to provide the following for the nominee:

  • Personal/contact information
  • Brief biography
  • Details on your/the nominee’s work, accomplishments and skills in the following areas:
    • interest in the position, influences, and work
    • poetry promotion and outreach
    • diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
    • project management
  • CV or resume
  • Links to work samples such as publications, video recordings of readings, documentation of performance history, including location, type of event, audience size and type, etc., or other creative methods that showcase their work
  • Up to three references (if you are nominating another person for the position, one of these references should come from you and state explicitly that you are the nominating party)

*In the case of third-party nomination, the person nominating should confirm candidate’s interest in advance.

How to Apply

Applicants apply through our online Foundant portal. View the list of application questions as a Word document here.

New applicants

When applicants click on the online application link, they will be taken to a login page and asked to create an account. Once this account has been created, the applicant should log in, and on the “Application Page” click on the blue link titled “Washington State Poet Laureate Application 2021- 2023” and begin completing the application. Applicants can draft and update applications prior to submitting a finished application using this system.

Returning applicants

Applicants who have previously applied for the Poet Laureate position using the online system should log in using their previously created email address/password combination. (If you have previously created an account but have forgotten the password, there is a link in the login site to create a new password.) Once logged in, you will see the “Application Status Page” which gives an overview of previously submitted applications. To access the 2021-2023 application, look to the upper left portion of the page and click on “Apply” under the “Requests” heading. Applicants can draft and update applications prior to submitting a finished application using this system.

About the Washington State Laureate Program

The Washington State Poet Laureate program was established in April 2007 when the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that recognized the value of poetry to the culture and heritage of the state. Washington joined several other states in appointing an official state poet laureate position.

The Washington State Poet Laureate is appointed to a two-year term by the governor. The program is jointly run by the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) and Humanities Washington.

To get in touch with our State Poet Laureate for a workshop or to book a presentation, please fill out this form on Humanities Washington’s website. You can also follow our State Poet Laureate on social media, @wapoetlaureate, and on the Washington Poet Laureate Blog.

Washington State Poet Laureate, Claudia Castro Luna, 2018-2021

Claudia Castro Luna, a prominent Seattle poet and teacher, has been appointed the fifth Washington State Poet Laureate by Governor Jay Inslee. Castro Luna’s first term runs from February 1, 2018 to January 31, 2020. She has been re-appointed for a one-year extension of her term, which runs through January 2021. She succeeded Tod Marshall, the current poet laureate. Prior to Marshall, Elizabeth Austen (2014-2016), Kathleen Flenniken (2012-2014), and Sam Green (2007-2009) held the position.

Castro Luna fled war-torn El Salvador for the United States at the age of 14 with her family. She went on to earn an MFA in poetry and an MA in urban planning. After working as a K-12 teacher, she became Seattle’s first Civic Poet, a position appointed by the mayor. In that position, Castro Luna won acclaim for her Seattle Poetic Grid, an online interactive map of showcasing poems about different locations around the city. The grid even landed her an interview on PBS NewsHour. She is also the author of the poetry chapbook This City and the collection Killing Marías.

The Washington State Poet Laureate program is jointly sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA). Poets laureate work to build awareness and appreciation of poetry-including the state’s legacy of poetry-through public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations in communities throughout the state. Laureates are selected through an application and panel review process that evaluates candidates’ proposed project plans, writing acumen, and experience promoting poetry. The finalists for the 2018-2020 laureate position included prominent blues poet Gary Copeland Lilley, City of Redmond poet laureate and Stranger Genius Award-winner Shin Yu Pai, and Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award-winning poet Michael Schmeltzer.

As the first immigrant and woman of color to assume the role, Castro Luna will be advocating for poetry during a particularly fraught period for both the humanities (the current administration proposed eliminating the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities early this year) and immigrant populations, who are confronting uncertainty in the face of travel bans and heated rhetoric.

“This is so much more than an honorary position,” said Julie Ziegler, executive director of Humanities Washington. “It’s very hard work, particularly in an era when our country is profoundly divided. The Poet Laureate gives a lot of him or herself, traveling thousands of miles back and forth across the state to reach the widest range of people possible.”

“It is a profound honor to serve the State of Washington as the next poet laureate,” said Castro Luna. “I look forward to continuing the legacy of my predecessors, to engaging with a broad spectrum of communities across the state and to maintaining an appreciation for, and contributing to, our rich poetic heritage.”