Manchester Arts Commission holding contest to find town poet laureates

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Feb. 27, 2014
Poetry contest co-chairs from the Manchester Arts Commission - (l to r) Carleigh Schultz of Manchester Community College and Joyce Hodgson from Little Theatre of Manchester - look over the event application. The contest, to be held on May 2 at Cheney Hall, will name both a youth and adult poet laureate, the first ever in Manchester. Photo contributed by Joyce Hodgson. - Contributed Photo

The Manchester Arts Commission is hosting a first-ever, town-wide poetry competition in order to name a town poet. Two winners will be crowned in the competition – an adult and a youth town poet. The age range for the youth poet is from 15 to 18 years old and the adult category is open to anyone 19 years old and older.

The competition was launched in December and runs through the end of March. All applications must be submitted by March 31. After the Manchester Arts Commission reviews the applications, they will chose a group of finalists that will presented to the public on May 2 at Cheney Hall. The public will vote on the winner, with ballots being cast during intermission. 

The contest is only open to Manchester residents and includes any form of poetry. “It can be slam poetry, it can be real rhyming poetry, it can be very open poetry,” said Joyce Hodgson, who is a co-chair of the project with Carleigh Schultz. “It really is whatever form of poetry they want.”

Hodgson said contestants are asked to submit two or three original poems and to provide the Commission with a DVD of them performing their poetry or a link to a YouTube video of them performing their poetry.  If contestants don’t have access to this technology, they can make a personal presentation to the Commission.

The winners of the adult and youth categories will be named a Manchester town poet laureate, a title they will hold for two years.  The presentation aspect of this competition is very important, as the newly-crowned poet laureates will be asked to perform in public during their term.

Hodgson said the youth winner will not be asked to attend as many functions as the adult winner, “but we would like them, number one, to be here for this event and, number two, to be at the Manchester Arts Commission Hall of Fame, which is held sometime in the month of June.”

The adult poet laureate will also be required to attend the event on May 2 and the Manchester Arts Commission Hall of Fame, in addition to being asked to perform twice a year. The winners will also be asked to represent the town well as the new poet laureates.  Hodgson said the winners must be able to “speak well, interact with audiences, be able to educate people about the beauty of poetry and how important it is in our arts and culture.”

Hodgson said the idea for the competition was born from the Manchester Arts Commission as its members were trying to think of new ways to honor and recognize all the different kinds of art and culture in town.  She added that there is a lot of focus on the arts and culture on Main Street in such forms as sculpture or pottery or jewelry, but said, “there’s always been a little bit of lacking when it comes to the written word.”

“So given that there is a state level of both a poet and a troubadour, it’s just a natural reflection for us to do it here in our community,” explained Hodgson.  “We just thought one thing a year would be a good thing [to add], so last year was the troubadour and this year is the poet.”

Requests for applications can be sent to

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