Madison Poet Luareate
The City of Madison Poet Laureate is an honorary position that guides and nurtures the development of the poetry community in Madison thereby enriching our culture. Madison is 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. The Poet Laureate leads the Poetry in Common Council series, the Bus Lines project, and mentors the City of Madison Youth Poet Laureate (more on each of these programs below).
In 1977 Mayor Paul Soglin proclaimed John Tuschen the first Poet Laureate. After a 23-year reign as Madison's colorful bard extraordinaire, Andrea Musher was named Madison’s second Poet Laureate by Mayor Susan Bauman in November, 2000. Musher served until December, 2007, and passed the torch to Fabu. Prior to leaving the position, Musher supported the passing of a resolution to officially recognize the role, which was passed at the January 8, 2008 Madison Common Council Meeting. In 2011 Fabu left the position, and on January 16, 2012 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) Mayor Soglin appointed Poets Laureate Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman. Oscar Mireles next served in the position from January 2015 to January 2020.
Current Madison Poet Laureate
Angela Trudell Vasquez is our current Poet Laureate, serving since 2020. For more information on Angie, see her website.
2023 Call for the next Poet Laureate
The call for nominations for a new Poet Laureate is now open, and will close September 27, 2023. This fall the Madison Arts Commission will review nominations and make a recommendation to the Mayor’s Office. The new Poet Laureate, appointed by Mayor Satya Rhodes‐Conway and the Common Council, will begin their term on January 15, 2024.
Any poet that wishes to self‐nominate or any organization or member of the community that wishes to nominate a poet for the position of Madison’s next Poet Laureate may submit an application for consideration. Poets Laureate are selected based on their involvement and commitment to the community, literary excellence and continued pursuit of the craft.
During their service, Poets Laureate generously share their love of poetry with our city, create occasional poems for specific civic events, and they participate in and sustain the poetry programs for the City of Madison listed below.
The City receievd 61 applications for the 2023 Bus Lines call for poetry, totaling 127 individual poems. Poet Laureate Angela Trudell Vasquez reviewed and selected 6 poems, and selected poets will be notified in early August. All poets are invited to attend the Bus Lines Poetry Reading and Reception on November 9th at 6:30 PM at Pinney library.
Poetry at Common Council
Madison's Poets Laureate, or a poet they invite, occasionally open 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 meeting, 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 themselves vulnerable, as do all residents 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.
Youth Poet Laureate
In 2022, current Poet Laureate Angela Trudell Vasquez launched the Madison Youth Poet Laureate Program, the first of it's kind in Wisconsin. Madison is now a member of the National Youth Poet Laureate program, which honors talented poets from ages of thirteen (13) through nineteen (19) and provides for competitive opportunities for young people to showcase their literary art on the regional and national stage.
The Madison Youth Poet Laureate serves for one year, and is expected to give three public readings with the current Madison Poet Laureate during that time. Additionally, the Youth Poet Laureate has the opportunity to apply for the National Youth Poet Laureate role each fall.
The National Youth Poet Laureate Program works with local arts organization across the United States to elevate youth voices that are committed to artistic excellence, civic engagement and social impact. The National Youth Poet Laureate Program is supported by the academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Parks Service, and many more, and is an initiative of Urban Word NYC, Inc., an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization.
2022-2023 Madision Youth Poet Laureate: Madeleine Bohn
2023-24 Madison Youth Poet Laureate: Maliha Nu'Man
Madison Arts Commission
Madison Municipal Building
Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development
215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 017
P.O. Box 2985
Madison, WI 53701-2985