Houston Poet Laureate Hosts Free August Writing Workshops

Posted August 6, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Gwen ZepedaHouston Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Zepeda will offer a series of free poetry workshops at the Houston Public Library Central Branch starting on August 7th. Here is a description of the weekly sessions from the HPL site:
Houston’s first Poet Laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda, will conduct a series of two-hour workshops for poetry beginners ages 13 and up. Each workshop will consist of selected readings and then several writing exercises. The sessions are designed to enable even the least experienced writers to complete more than one original poem. The workshops will be focused as follows:
What Should I Write? Exercises to Generate Ideas
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 | 6 – 8 PM
Setting the Mood: Exercises in Tone
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 | 6 – 8 PM
Making It Flow: Exercises in Rhythm
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 | 6 – 8 PM
Pro Tools: Working with Forms
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | 6 – 8 PM
Location: Central Library | 500 McKinney St. | Houston, TX 77002

Cost: FREEhpl logo red
For more information, check out the Houston Public Library website.

Outdoor Poetry Events on April 20th

Posted April 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Come out and enjoy lovely weather and superb poetry this Saturday, April 20th.  WITS students will participate in events across the city.

image006An incredible line-up of WITS students will be reading their poems and stories on the Menil Entrance Stage at 12 noon as part of the Menil Community & Houston Indie Book Festival. Bring a blanket and stay the whole afternoon!  This annual family-oriented festival features music, film, yoga, children’s story time, and food trucks! WITS writers also will be leading FREE writing tours of the Menil Collection at 1 PM and 3 PM.

66445_authorxaviergarzIn addition to the WITS reading at the Menil Community & Houston Indie Book Festival, several WITS students will read with award-winning author Monica Brown, whose books include Tito PuenteMambo King and Clara and the Curandera, at Discovery Green as part of the Día de los niños/Día de los libros celebration from 12 noon to 2 PM.  This event is also free and open to the public.  It will be kicked off by Houston’s new Poet Laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Meta-FourLast but not least, our Meta-Four youth performance poets will be making appearances at several parks, including the Park at Palm Center, George T. Nelson Park, and MacGregor Park, as part of the AWE Celebration to promote arts, wellness, and the environment.



Mayor Parker Announces Houston’s First Poet Laureate

Posted April 11, 2013 & filed under Poem of the Day.

imagesMayor Annise D. Parker and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announced that Gwendolyn Zepeda has been selected as Houston’s first Poet Laureate.

Gwendolyn Zepeda, a Houston-based author, has published numerous works of fiction and poetry.  Her book of poems, It’s Zepeda Not Zapata, will be published in 2014. As Houston’s first Poet Laureate, she will do community outreach and conduct poetry-writing workshops in diverse neighborhoods.  We’ll post those workshops here, so that you don’t miss them!

Robin Reagler, Executive Director of Writers in the Schools (WITS), served on the Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee, which assisted in the nomination and selection process.

You Could be the First Houston Poet Laureate

Posted February 27, 2013 & filed under Notebook.


The Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs are pleased to announce the newly-established

DEADLINE: March 8, 2013

Mayor Annise D. Parker announces the application/nomination process for selection of Houston’s first Poet Laureate. Submissions are welcome from persons nominating a poet for the position of Poet Laureate or from individual poets who are seeking the position. Only online applications will be accepted.


Mission Statement: The Houston Poet Laureate Program (HPLP) celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who will represent Houston by creating excitement about poetry through outreach, programs, teaching, and written work.

Term of Service: The term of service is two years. The current term will commence in April 2013 and expire in April 2015.

Term Expectations:

• Develop a community outreach project in which the Poet Laureate shares the art and love of poetry with a non-traditional and/or underserved audience.
• Plan and/or attend at least 4 community-based poetry programs per year. These may include public library programs, civic and other forms of community events.
• Provide content to the Houston Poet Laureate Program web page.
• Prepare and provide an annual written report of activities.

Criteria for Nomination and Selection of Poet Laureate:
• Have strong ties to the city of Houston and a strong interest in serving the city.
• Residence in Houston of at least 4 years.
• Experience in public speaking and public performance. Some teaching experience is preferred, but not required.
• Must have a body of published work, including at least one full-length book (not self-published or vanity press) or CD (not self-produced) or at least 20 published poems in established publications (print or online) over the past 5 years.
• Must be at least 21 years of age and not currently enrolled in an academic program.


• The Houston Poet Laureate will receive an annual honorarium of $5,000 through the
City’s Initiative Grant Program of the Houston Arts Alliance.

• A nominating statement of 2 or 3 paragraphs detailing why the nominee would be a good
selection for the Houston Poet Laureate Program.
• A writing sample of 10-15 pages in length consisting of select poems or other literary works.
• Résumé or curriculum vitae, not to exceed 2 pages.
• Brief biography, not to exceed 1 page.
• Proposal for a community outreach program, not to exceed 1 page.
• If the application package is submitted by a nominator (rather than the poet) a statement
by the nominated poet that he/she is aware of the nomination and is willing to fulfill the
requirements of the program if selected.
• Completed application packets should be submitted either as MS Word or PDF documents
via e-mail to [email protected], (Note: All nominations submitted must be
complete and fulfill all requirements. Incomplete nomination packets will not be considered.)


• Mayor Annise Parker, along with Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, has appointed the Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee, a group of acknowledged and diverse poets, scholars, and literary experts, to assist in the nomination and selection process. The group will be chaired by a library representative who will be a non-voting member of the committee.
• The selection committee will review all applications, which will be scored on a 100 point scale, with up to 70 points for artistic quality of the work sample, experience, and other professional accomplishments, and up to 30 points for the quality of the proposed outreach project.
• Finalists will be interviewed in person by the committee in late March and early April.
• The names of the finalists will be forwarded to Mayor Annise D. Parker and Library Director
Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, in order of preference, for their approval and FINAL SELECTION.

• The Poet Laureate will be announced in April 2013 to coincide with National Poetry Month.

Public Poetry

Posted November 2, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Don’t miss out on what Houston Press named the Best Reading Series 2011.  The next Public Poetry event will take place at 2 PM on November 5th at Discovery Green.  As usual, you’ll meet award-winning poets as well as children authors who have worked with WITS writers in schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, and homeless shelters.

The Featured Poets on November 5th are Sam Amadon, Robin Davidson,  Elisa A. Garza, and Dave Parsons, the 2011 Texas Poet Laureate.  Each Featured Poet has 6 minutes to read, followed by a short WITS student poem, another fast round, and a final bonus student poem.  You won’t want to miss the 2 PM start, with a special guest appearance by Houston singer/songwriter Don Sanders.

Get Thee to the Library!

Posted May 23, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

I will never forget the impact that Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate in 1985, had on me when she visited my high school and spoke to a small group of us in our school library.  She read a few poems, including ones from We Real Cool, and then answered questions.   One of the questions was about the Library of Congress.

She explained that the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, in terms of shelf space and number of books. It was built by Congress in 1800 and housed in the United States Capital until much of the collection was destroyed in the War of 1812.

Today the Library of Congress is housed in 3 different buildings and contains over 147 million items.  Although it is open to the public, only members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and high-ranking government officials, including the Poet Laureate, may check out books.

I remember Ms. Brooks sweeping her arms in an arc across my high school library and saying that we must fill the libraries of the world with books by all sorts of people, not just the ones we relate to easily.

Thank you, Ms. Brooks.

by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools