Mike "Mike the PoeT" Sonksen is an acclaimed poet based in Los Angeles. Sonksen will mentor young poets, March 7 at Michelle Obama Library, as part of the city's Youth Poet Laureate program. Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher.

Young poets in Long Beach have until March 31 to enter their submissions to the Long Beach Youth Poet Laureate (LBYPL), a new city-wide advocate program aimed towards providing Long Beach teenagers interested in poetry and spoken word artistry with year-round literary arts, civic engagement and performance opportunities.

This inaugural program coordinated by the Long Beach Public Library and the Arts Council for Long Beach is modeled after the National Poet Laureate movement, an initiative of Urban Word. The award-winning youth literary arts and development organization works with local youth literary arts institutions and agencies across the country to give young writers the chance to hone their craft and reach wider audiences with their work.

“From Langston Hughes to Maya Angelou, our most prolific writers began at an early age,” said Councilmember Rex Richardson, who has pushed for the youth poet laureate program. “We are thrilled to be joining the National Poet Laureate movement, now in 41 cities across the country, in creating a platform to promote literacy and creativity, while inspiring and amplifying the voices of our diverse and talented teens.”

One poet laureate and four (possibly five) poet ambassadors will be selected to represent Long Beach’s youth in literacy and the arts through performances, mentorships and other projects. In addition, each of the winners will receive a scholarship to further their own education.

Image courtesy the Arts Council for Long Beach.

“For this inaugural year, we believe that most of our applicants will already have an interest in writing poetry and will most likely already have some writing under their belt,” said Juliene Malecot, senior librarian at the Long Beach Public Library. “As we move into subsequent years, we plan to have our poet laureate and poet ambassadors active in the community, inspiring and leading other teens into the world of poetry.”

To enter, applicants must be Long Beach residents between the ages of 14 and 19 years old. The submission must include a portfolio featuring five original poems, specifically about Long Beach (the city, its natural advantages, resources, enterprises, attractions, climate and facilities or the Long Beach experience), along with a resume; an artist statement; and parent/guardian information, for participants younger than 18 years of age as of March 31.

To help teens with their portfolio submissions, including crafting the poems, the city is hosting free literary workshops in various Long Beach public libraries led by local poets Michelle Brittan Rosado and Michael “Mike the PoeT” Sonksen through February and March.

The next scheduled workshop will be held at the Los Altos Neighborhood Library (5614 Britton Dr.) Thursday, Feb. 27, from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Poet Michael Sonksen will appear at the following workshop Saturday, March 7, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library (5870 Atlantic Ave.) The final workshop is Tuesday, March 24, from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at the Mark Twain Neighborhood Library (1401 E. Anaheim St.)

Submissions will be accepted until March 31 and can be submitted at no cost to the applicant. Judging will take place in April where up to 15 finalists will be selected to participate in the Long Beach Youth Poet Laureate commencement event. Finalists will be notified no later than April 21.

For more information and to submit your application, click here.