“It has been my honor to serve as the inaugural poet laureate of Richmond, Virginia. My time as poet laureate has been an eventful one. During my tenure, I was able to accomplish all the projects I set out to do with the support of many Richmond organizations. We partnered with Mending Walls RVA to add a performance poetry component to their murals centered around culture and social justice. During my time, Richmond Public Schools and I worked together to organize the first city-wide high school poetry slam. I was fortunate to work with and give a lot of artists opportunities to have their work seen on larger platforms and give back to the youth. I learned a lot from these experiences and the artists. I was able to use this position to talk about the beauty of Richmond and discuss the areas of improvement. From poems about beautiful murals, to addressing the infamous Confederate statues, I wrote more about the city than I ever have and broadened my perspective of this wonderful place I’ve called home. In addition to the larger projects, I was able to provide poetry writing and performance workshops to youth and adults throughout the city and surrounding counties. I hope that this position continues to be a beacon for the community. It is my hope that this prestigious position gives hope and inspiration to the citizens of Richmond. Poetry is an art form centered in the experiences of the people. Poets are the griots of our time, and the future laureates should be someone who listens and understands the voice of the city, as they will be the voice for the city for a time.” Douglas Powell/Roscoe Burnem 11.15.2022
Ode to Richmond by Roscoe Burnem
Rainbows cascading across the ribs of Boulevard.
Lost lives on lips of 17th and Main.
Honey bees cycle upon the back of Cary
and Davis Ave dances in rain.
The skin of Jackson Ward’s buildings
tell the story of legacy.
When the mind does not fit upon the canvas
and thirsts for reach,
it is not James River that quenches an artist,
it is the hunger for feat.
Brick and mortar battle with bustling brushes,
hues slain across wall
This becomes a civil war for creative unrest,
another canvas falls.
A body of tattoos in abstraction and technicolor, of joy, of memories, of hurt.
Richmond is home to some of the greatest art on earth.
A reflection of its people. A tell-tale of its ghosts,
found in the heart of the music,
in poetry, and most
never truly appreciate the frame of thought,
when imagination cannot be caught in woven
cotton and needs space for anarchy
and chaos and craft and desires to be free.
That is when Richmond becomes a gallery.