2020 Bucks County Poet Laureate

From left: Mary Jo LoBello Jerome, 2019 Bucks County Poet Laureate; Jane Edna Mohler, 2020 Bucks County Poet Laureate; professor and program director Dr. Ethel Rackin.

NEWTOWN >> The search is on for the 45th annual Bucks County Poet Laureate, according to Bucks County Community College Professor Ethel Rackin, Ph.D., director of what is the longest-running poet laureate program in Pennsylvania.

The contest is open to Bucks County residents over age 18 who have not previously served as poet laureate, said Rackin, who teaches language and literature at Bucks, where the program is based.

Each entrant must submit 10 original poems of any style or length along with an entry form to the college’s Language and Literature Department. Entries must be submitted online by Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. The winner receives a $500 honorarium, a proclamation from the Bucks County Commissioners, and will be featured at a Fall reading and reception at Bucks County Community College with the previous year’s poet laureate, Jean Edna Mohler, and contest runners-up.

Poetry of any kind is welcome. The entry requires 10 poems, any style, form, or length. All work must be original, published or unpublished, typewritten or word-processed, one poem per page, in black ink. The poems and entry form must be submitted online at bucks.edu/poetlaureateentry

There is no charge to enter the contest, but there is a limit of one entry per person.

Two judges will blindly select the winner. The preliminary judge will narrow the entries down to a few dozen for the final judge, who will choose the winner and three runners-up from the pool of finalists.

The preliminary judge will be Ernest Hilbert, author of Sixty Sonnets, All of You on the Good Earth, Caligulan, and Last One Out. He lives with his wife and son in Philadelphia where he works as an antiquarian bookseller.

The 2021 final judge will be Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, Lamp of the Body, the national bestseller Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change, and Goldenrod. Smith’s poems and essays are widely published and anthologized, appearing in Best American Poetry, the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and elsewhere. In 2016 her poem “Good Bones” went viral internationally and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Public Radio International called it “the official poem of 2016.”

The Bucks Poet Laureate Program is one of the oldest in the country. It also holds a High School Poet Contest every Spring and sponsors an annual writers’ conference, and is yet another way that Bucks County Community College contributes to the cultural heritage of the region.

For more information, contact Rackin at ethel.rackin@bucks.edu.

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