Poet Laureate Program

2019 Poet Laureate Nomination Policy & Process

Subsequent to new appointments, a period will be open to any organization or member
of the community that wishes to nominate a poet for this position (self-nominations are
welcome). The nominations may involve consultation with members of the literary arts
community and other constituencies that the Poet Laureate may help to serve or represent.
The current Poet Laureate, along with members of the Madison Arts Commission,
will review all nominations at a noticed public meeting of the Madison Arts Commission
and make a recommendation. The recommendation, rationale for the recommendation,
and supporting documents will be delivered to the Mayor's office two months prior to
the current Poet Laureate's retirement.

Based on the recommendation of the Poet Laureate, the Mayor shall appoint a new
Poet Laureate for a term of two years. The appointment may be extended for an additional
two years upon agreement between the Poet Laureate and the City.

If the Poet Laureate is not able to complete a full term, the Mayor's office shall accept
nominations for a replacement. The replacement Poet Laureate will serve a full twoyear
term with an opportunity to extend.

Oscar Mireles

Oscar Mireles, the City of Madison's current Poet Laureate.

Madison proudly boasts that we are one of the first cities in the nation to have a Poet Laureate, reflecting our longstanding poetic tradition and deep historical investment in the literary arts.

Mayor Paul Soglin proclaimed John Tuschen Poet Laureate in 1977 during his 1st term in office. After a 23-year reign as Madison's colorful bard extraordinaire, Tuschen, whose health was in decline, introduced Andrea Musher to former Mayor Susan Bauman. Bauman proclaimed Andrea Madison's second Poet Laureate in 2001. After six years in service to our City, Musher decided to pass the torch to Fabu, another Madison poet whose contributions to the community warrant the honor of this position, but not before formalizing the Poet Laureate program. In 2011, the City opened nominations for the next Poet Laureate and January 16, 2012, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mayor Soglin appointed Poets Laureate Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman. Oscar Mireles, Madison's current Poet Laureate was appointed in January of 2015 and is now serving a second term which will expire on January 19, 2020

On January 8, 2008, the Madison Common Council passed a resolution formally recognizing the Poet Laureate Program.

To reach the Poet Laureate or ror more information about the Madison Poet Laureate Program, please contact Karin Wolf, Arts Program Administrator at madisonarts@cityofmadison.com


Madison's Poets Laureate, or a poet they invite, occasionally open the Common Council with a poem. This act reinforces a mood of civility in discourse. Reading a poem prior to the meeting acknowledges and reminds us of the complexities of experience, language and truth, heightening everyone's consciousness of the potency of their words.

The performance of the poem in the atmosphere of the council chambers, a place where our local elected officials make decisions that determine our daily lives, our landscape, and our children's future, is symbolic of the openness and acceptance necessary to our democratic process.

In performing a poem, the poet makes her or himself vulnerable, as do all citizens who speak at our city council meetings. Council members are, in the moment of the reading, the poet's audience. Alderpersons offer their full attention to the poet in open-minded contemplation. For the duration of the reading, daily activity and political discourse are suspended, to make a space for another form of interaction and mutual meaning making. This simple gesture and the ideal human relationship it represents, establishes an elevated atmosphere for the meeting to come.

December 1, 2015 View PDF Watch Video
March 3, 2015 View PDF Watch Video
December 2, 2014 View PDF Watch Video
October 7, 2014 View PDF Watch Video
June 17, 2014 View PDF Watch Video
March 4, 2014 View PDF Watch Video
December 03, 2013 View PDF Watch Video
September 17, 2013  View PDF Watch Video (1:18)
June 18, 2013 View PDF Watch Video (1:20)
March 5, 2013  View PDF Watch Video (1:10)
December 11, 2012 View PDF Watch Video (4:00)
September 18, 2012 View PDF Watch Video (6:19)
May 1, 2012     View PDF Watch Video


Poems on Metro Transit Buses

Bus Lines, a signature project of the Madison Poet Laureate program, creates an opportunity for Madison residents to display their poems inside Metro Transit buses and brings poetry before city residents in a creative way.

Metro Transit Bus Lines

Bus LInes

Last Updated: 08/30/2019