The Northampton Arts Council works to support and nurture the arts in the city of Northampton. The Council awards grants twice each year to artists and arts groups from both state and locally-raised funds, and seeks to improve public awareness of the arts. Its' goals include maintaining and preserving the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Northampton, programming such annual events of interest to the community as First Night Northampton and Transperformance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Northampton Arts Council Chooses Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate

The Northampton Arts Council is pleased to announce that Rio Santos has been chosen as the inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Northampton.

Santos will begin 9th grade at Northampton High School this fall, and she is a resident of Northampton.

Santos said she’s excited for her new position, especially the outreach to her school community and the community at large. “When I talk to my classmates, their first thought is that poetry is boring and long and not interesting in the slightest. But they find it’s fun to write poetry and read poetry. I have lots of ambition, lots of ideas.”

She said that poetry is a way to understand herself more, and she wants others to have that same experience.

Santos will begin her term as Youth Poet Laureate August 1, and she already has a reading lined up as part of the Art and Poetry biennial poetry reading, to be held October 9 in the Forbes Library. She will receive a $500 stipend and mentoring by Northampton’s poet laureate; as the Youth Poet Laureate she will also have the option of publishing a limited-edition chapbook of her own work.

Duties of the inaugural youth poet laureate include serving a one-year term from August 1, 2021 – July 31, 2022; promoting poetry within Northampton, Florence, and Leeds and the Youth Poet Laureate’s school community; designing and completing one community- or school-based poetry project, and participating in at least two community poetry readings or performances.

“We had a stunning group of applicants for the inaugural Youth Poet Laureate position,” said Karen Skolfield, Northampton’s current Poet Laureate. “It was a privilege to read their poems and applications and to meet with the finalists. Rio rose to the top with her energy and excitement, her ideas for potential poetry projects, and her love of poetry. Looking at the entire group of candidates, the future of poetry in this community looks bright.”

Next year’s search for Youth Poet Laureate will begin in late winter/early spring 2022. Applicants for next year’s Youth Poet Laureate position must be entering 7th-12th grade as of September 2022; attend school in Northampton, Florence, or Leeds or be homeschooled; and have a deep love of poetry and a willingness to be an advocate for poetry.

With this appointment, Northampton is the third city in Massachusetts to have a youth poet laureate, along with Worcester and Boston. Springfield and Dracut have also put out calls for their first Youth Poet Laureates. A much larger number of cities and towns in Massachusetts have poet laureates. Youth poet laureate programs are starting up in dozens of cities and states nationwide, with youth poet laureates installed or in progress in Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, Houston, Phoenix, Nashville, New York City, and elsewhere.

“We are all so proud to appoint Rio as the first Youth Poet Laureate in Northampton,” said Brian Foote, Executive Director of the Northampton Arts Council.

For more information, Karen Skolfield,

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