Roanoke Youth Poet Laureate


We are very happy to be in the first year of our Youth Poet Laureate Program, in partnership with the National Youth Poet Laureate Program curated by Urban Word. Our 2024 Youth Poet Laureate is Elani Spencer.

About the Program

We selected our Youth Poet Laureate on October 21 at the Melrose Fall Festival at Melrose Plaza. Guests enjoyed performances, youth poetry workshops and the big announcement. To prepare for the program, Bryan “Harvest Blaque” Hancock of Soul Sessions received an Art Matters Grant to explore the potential. He and colleague Adria Cintron ran youth poetry workshops at Melrose Library in Summer 2023.

The Youth Poet Laureate is assessed based upon their performance of an original work. We look for young civic-minded poets whose quality of whose work is demonstrated through their performance and commitment to our community. The age range is from 13-19 years old. 

Our panel reviewed cadence, delivery, and subject matter. Our program identifies powerful youth poets that have a history of artistic success, civic and community engagement, social impact, and youth leadership. The Roanoke Arts Commission and partners will now work to provide creative and leadership growth opportunities as well as outlets for speaking and performing at local and regional showcases.

The 2023-4 coaching and selection panel included:
– Bryan “Harvest Blaque” Hancock, Soul Sessions
– Adria Cintron, Soul Sessions
– Angelina Randolph, The Listening
– Douglas Pitzer, Strokes of Genius, LLC
– Dionte “Taye the Truth” Hall
– Meighan Sharp, Roanoke Arts Commission
– Douglas Jackson, City of Roanoke Arts & Culture Coordinator

Learn more about our inaugural Youth Poet Laureate, Elani Spencer.
Follow the Roanoke Youth Poet Laureate on Instagram.
Know a youth you think would be terrific as our next Youth Poet Laureate?
Have a request for an appearance by our Youth Poet Laureate? Contact us using the form below.

Who Can Apply

Thank you for your interest in the Roanoke Youth Poet Laureate program and competition.

We will host a variety of workshops in 2024 and will be holding a competition to select the next Youth Poet Laureate for the Star City in Fall 2024.

Eligible participants are 13-19 years of age, have parental permission if under 18, and live in or are civically involved in the City of Roanoke.

Successful candidates will be engaged in the Roanoke and school communities and have demonstrated an interest in leading our community to a better future. Their poetry will reflect their world view and community involvement.

2024 Roanoke Youth Poet Laureate Elani Spencer (with supporters from left Amber Lowery of Roanoke Public Libraries, Arts Commissioners Becky Carr, Vice-Chair William Penn, Charlene Graves, Arts and Culture Coordinator Douglas Jackson, and Roanoke Arts Commission Chair Meighan Sharp) after her introduction to Roanoke City Council on February 20, 2024. ) Photo courtesy of Katherine Devine.

How to Apply

If you submit your poetry for consideration, please note the following guidelines:

Poetry MUST be at appropriate for ALL AGES, no poetry with profanity or graphic or sexual imagery will be considered.

All poetry submissions must be accompanied by contact information for the poet, as well as parent and/or guardian contact information for all participants under the age of 18. If no contact information is provided, poetry will not be considered for competition.

Poetry must be ORIGINAL work by the poet who submits.

Poems will be reviewed, and selected poets will be invited to read their poems on stage at the Rhythm & Rhyme Festival at Melrose Plaza (2502 Melrose Ave. NW) in the Fall of 2024. 

Our Youth Poet Laureate

If a poet is selected as the Youth Poet Laureate, they must agree to make appearances in Roanoke at events as well as provide more original works of poetry for those events.

The selected poet must be available for additional events and possible competitions at the regional and state level.

The 2024 Youth Poet Laureate is Elani Spencer.

Thank you for your interest! We can’t wait to get your poem and to celebrate Roanoke’s youth voices!

More information

Learn about youth poetry and recitation in these state and national poetry efforts.

National Youth Poet Laureate
Poetry Out Loud

Youth Poet Laureate Request

Our Youth Poet Laureate is also a busy student. She’s out in the community making connections, but she also needs to make the grades! Let us know how you’d like to engage with the poet, and we’ll see what we can do.

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