Poet Laureate for the
City of Richmond

City Names Roscoe Burnems
First Richmond Poet Laureate

Roscoe Burnems, RVA's First Poet Laureate, 2021
Roscoe Burnems, RVA’s First Poet Laureate, 2021 | Photo by Onaje Baldwin

Said Burnems of his new post,
“I can’t wait to get started.”

The City of Richmond has chosen its first poet laureate, Douglas Powell, known in the community by his stage name, Roscoe Burnems. Burnems is a poet, published author, spoken-word artist, comedian and teacher.  He is a highly respected as an expert and professional, Roscoe has lent his talents to multiple organizations in Richmond including St. Joseph’s Villa Alternative Education Program, University of Richmond’s Partner in The Arts, ART 180, and has taught workshops at multiple middle & high schools. As coach, Roscoe has led the Richmond poetry slam team and the VCU slam team to regional and national final stages. He has hosted both The Writer’s Den monthly slam and co-hosted Tuesday Verses, one of the oldest black owned open mics in the south.

Evidence of an interest in and capacity for community engagement was part of the poet laureate selection criteria and a top priority of the mayor’s. “The Richmond Poet Laureate should relish showing kids, teens and adults the healing, restorative power of the written word,” said Mayor Stoney. “Roscoe has exhibited time and again his interest in bringing poetry to the people, and his list of ideas for engagement projects tells me he’s the Richmonder for the job.”

5712019 T Rewriting Masculinity | Douglas Powell /Roscoe Burnems | [email protected] at the time marker 19 mins.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqHvEFKXUCA |
Photo by Onaje Baldwin

Roscoe believes that poetry has been his “lifesaving medium.” “I write poetry to create challenging conversations and broaden perspectives. Whether the topic is race, religion, or mental health, my work is dedicated to educating, uplifting humanity, and breaking down the walls that divide us as a community.”

Read Burnem’s poem, “Lycanthropy.”

“It is the diversity of the city and the adversities that we are able to overcome as a community that cultivate our resilience as people,” said Burnems. “This is the soil for change and progression to sprout and expand into a tree that blooms the fruit of our tenacity. We decide if that fruit is sweetened with peace or embittered with division.”

To learn more about Roscoe Burnems, click here.

To read the complete press release, click here.

Join us for the celebration at the Poe Museum!

The Richmond Poet Laureate will make his public debut at the Poe Museum’s Birthday Bash, a virtual celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s 212th birthday. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services Reggie Gordon and Burnems will discuss the role of the poet laureate, how Richmond shaped his poetry and upcoming ways the laureate will engage with the community. Click here to learn more about the free festivities.

Poetry heals.

Richmond’s poets are a hidden treasure.  Let’s  help the city discover them by sharing this award with our poet friends. 



Uniting Our Community

“A poetic spirit is at the heart of our city. Designating an official Poet Laureate will help us embrace and celebrate Richmond’s creativity and passions, while uniting our community over our shared experiences.” 

-Deanna Lorianni

Inspire and Connect

“As executive director of James River Writers, I’ve experienced first hand the power of poetry to inspire and connect our community. I’m delighted to see the Poet Laureate Program come to fruition, and I know having a creative individual visibly representing the way words can uplift us all will be an act of celebration and inclusion.”

-Katharine Herndon


Embrace the Arts

“Richmond should always embrace the arts as an accessible way to provide hope and encouragement to all our residents. The Poet Laureate will give us yet another opportunity to use the power of words to heal wounds, open hearts and minds and weave us closer together.”

-Reggie Gordon, DCAO for Richmond Human Services

Learn More