It is with great anticipation that we prepare to launch the search for our next Richmond Poet Laureate. Excitement in getting to see what the next poet will offer and to watch and see how Roscoe Burnem will continue to expand his repertoire and make us grow along with him.
The City of Richmond established the Poet Laureate position during the summer (2020) of COVID-19 to highlight our extensive creative community and showcase how the arts can and will sustain us during challenging times.
Reggie Gordon, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Richmond Human Services, said the city should continually embrace the arts as an avenue for hope and encouragement. “The Poet Laureate will give us another opportunity to use the power of words to heal wounds, open hearts and minds and weave us closer together.”
We were thrilled with the selection of Douglas Powell/Roscoe Burnems as Richmond’s first Poet Laureate. An important criteria was for our poet to be able to engage with our diverse community. “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.”
In response Roscoe said, I’m ready go. I overheard him say that becoming the poet laureate was a goal; before it was even a position – he has the power to make things happen!
Roscoe says that “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.” His projects reflect interweaving poetry into public visual art project IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK’ in collaboration with MENDING WALLS, and sharing this platform with fellow poets, visual artists, musicians and actors; hosting spoken-word competitions and showcases for youth; and partnering with area public library systems to organize a series of accessible workshops.
Roscoe’s passion for poetry is contagious, if not wanting to write poetry, he will make you want to listen to and read more poetry! His belief that poetry is a “lifesaving medium,” fuels the many contributions he has made to the Richmond arts and cultural community. What I have witnessed and really appreciate about Roscoe, is his generosity and his ability to collaborate and pull people together. He gives credit to Richmond “This city helped mold me. The events in the literary community, the art community, the musicians, the writers and all the things we’ve watched shape Richmond artistically created who I am today.” He shares in his successes, skills, knowledge, and time with his peers, and is widely recognized for his ability to lift, encourage, and keep everyone moving forward.
Over the years, I have seen Roscoe at a variety of events and workshops around the city and I have seen how easily he engages with all ages and from socially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. One of my favorite collaborations is when Roscoe performs with the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia. Here’s what they say ”Sometimes we just need to let out our emotions – by pairing the inspiring and powerful poems of national poetry slam champion Douglas Powell/Roscoe Burnems stands alongside the mystical Rosary Sonatas by Austrian Baroque violinist Heinrich Biber, music inspired by the Passion.” The ah-ha moment is when you see that the musicians, poets and audience connect and experience something new and exciting together and that mindsets have been disrupted and changed forever!
Our Poet Laureate position grants the artist the freedom to explore a variety of topics, with the primary goal of promoting poetry throughout Richmond. Roscoe has brought us lots of ah-ha moments. He is a catalyst for change as an inclusive activity.
I encourage you to continue to follow Roscoe in his endeavors, his trajectory will help make all poetry accessible to all people.
The application for the 2023-2025 Richmond Poet Laureate will open December 1st, 2022.