Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #197: Seattle’s Poet Populist

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.  With assistance from my LA Frank Video.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • VOTE!

Seattle’s Poet Populist

After lying dormant these past two years, I decided it was time to revive the role of Poet Populist for our city.

“Poet Populist?” you exclaim? Let me explain.

The 2nd College Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defines a laureate as one who receives highest honors. Poet Laureates are traditionally hand-picked by Governors, Mayors, or Kings. A Poet Populist, in contrast to being anointed by someone of authority, is made official by a popular vote of the people.

Seattle’s Poet Populist is expected to represent and promote the principals of populist poetic expression throughout our Seattle when performing during his or her one-year term. One original poem will be commissioned of the Poet Populist.


The role of Poet Populist for Seattle originated in 1999. As a follow-up to my 1998 Neighborhood Arts Conference, I sponsored the Seattle Neighborhood Arts Celebration (SNAC) to augment Neighborhood Appreciation Day on February 13th, 1999. 23 poets and performers performed in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall in the Benaroya Symphony Hall for over 500 attendees. A dozen neighborhood arts groups exhibited in the lobby.

Attendees to the SNAC as well as the general public cast ballots and elected Seattle’s first Poet Populist, Barnard Harris, Jr. The most recent Poet Populist, Tara Hardy, was elected for the 2002-2003 term through a process managed by Eleventh Hour Productions, the producers of the Seattle Poetry Festival and the Seattle Poetry Slam.


Each of 12 Seattle literary organizations or literary programs nominated one poet as their candidate for Seattle Poet Populist. I encourage everyone to visit the Seattle Poet Populist voting web site at in order to cast a vote for their favorite Seattle poet whom they believe deserves to become Seattle’s next Poet Populist. One vote per person, of course. Voting ends at 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, August 15th, 2005.

The poet nominees are Nancy Dahlberg, Christa Bell, Rajnii Eddins, Donald Kentop, Irene Drennan, Brian McGuigan, Kary Watson, Cathy Ruiz, Pesha Joyce Gertler, Ann Batchelor Hursey, Paul C. Hunter, and Frances McCue. Their nominators are listed on the voting web site.

The four candidates receiving the highest number of votes will be assembled on the literary stage at Bumbershoot this September for a reading. The one poet with the most votes will be announced then and awarded a cash prize of $500. Seattle’s Poet Populist will be commissioned to write one original poem and to perform readings throughout the City during their 2005-2006 term, including a reading at the Seattle Central Library, downtown, during National Poetry Month next April.

Bumbershoot Arts Festival and the Seattle Public Library have graciously agreed to be supporters of the Seattle Poet Populist election this year.

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
– Percy B. Shelley, 1792-1827

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