Mayor Sylvester Turner, the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA), and the Houston Public Library (HPL), are searching for the City of Houston’s next poet laureate. 

In its 10th year, the Poet Laureate program has seen five poet laureates selected by the Mayor of Houston.  

The program celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a Houston poet who serves as the City’s ambassador for the literary arts. During a two-year appointment, the poet laureate makes several guest appearances at special events and also completes a Community Outreach project.  The poet laureate will receive an honorarium of $20,000 through the City Initiative Grant Program and serve from April 2023 through April 2025.  

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The role of the Houston poet laureate is to stimulate poetic impulse, foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms, and serve Houston residents and visitors with expressions of culture through words.

“For the past decade, our poet laureates have reached into the hearts of our residents to find the soul of Houston and to be inspired by them,” said Mayor Turner. “We are looking for the next poet laureate who will continue on the work of those before them and bring the position of the Houston poet laureate to new heights.” 

Each Poet Laureate for the City creates a signature Community Outreach project.

The current Poet Laureate, Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, is recording Space City Mixtape – a mixture of spoken word narratives of Houston residents set to music by Russell Gus slated for release February 2023.  

Houston’s Former Poet Laureates, from left to right: Dr. Robin Davidson (2015-2017), Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton (2017-2019), Leslie Contreras Schwartz (2019-2021), and Gwen Zepeda (2013-2015). 

Leslie Contreras Schwartz, Houston’s 2019-2021, Poet Laureate, created Bayou City Broadsides, artistic displays of lines from poems of everyday Houstonians. Houston’s 2017-2019 Poet Laureate Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton created Emerge, 11 community performance poetry videos highlighting various Houston neighborhoods. Houston’s 2015-2017 Poet Laureate Dr. Robin Davidson published an anthology of Houston residents’ favorite poetry, and Gwen Zepeda, Houston’s 2013-2015 Poet Laureate, created the Houston Poet Laureate’s social media platforms. 

The Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee, a diverse group of poets, scholars, literary experts, and community representatives, will assist in the selection process. Eligible applications will be reviewed by a panel of poets, scholars, and literary experts that is diverse in age, ethnicity, and experience. Non-voting members include Victor Ancheta of MOCA and Justin Bogert of HPL.

The deadline to apply is midnight on Sunday, January 29, 2023, 11:59 PM CST. 

Submissions are welcome from poets, authors, writers, and spoken word artists. The guidelines, term requirements, and application portal for the Houston Poet Laureate can be found here.  

Finalists will be interviewed by the panel in late March with a final decision made by Mayor Turner. Houston’s next poet laureate will be announced in celebration of National Poetry Month (April). 

The program is coordinated by MOCA and HPL and funded through the Hotel Occupancy Tax that is dedicated to the arts. 

For further information about the City’s Cultural Programs go to or follow the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs on Facebook or Instagram @HoustonMOCA.  

For further information about the Houston Public Library visit, Twitter @houstonlibrary, or call 832.393.1313.