The City of Rockford, in partnership with the Rockford Public Library and the Rockford Area Arts Council, has recently named Jenna Goldsmith as the City's 2023-2024 Poet Laureate and Kaila Anderson as the City's 2023 Youth Poet. Both of these individuals will be succeeding Christine Swanberg and Giulyana Gamero, respectively, in these honorary positions.
Jenna Goldsmith, a professor at Rockford University, is an accomplished and award-winning poet. She has recently won the Baltic Writing Residency Chapbook contest in 2022 and has had her poetry featured in publications such as Tilde and Belt Magazine. During her term as Poet Laureate, Goldsmith will be exploring the theme "Poetry in New Places" and will be guiding the Rockford community on a journey of how poetry can help us all to find and tell of the beauty in unexpected and everyday spaces.
Kaila Anderson, a 10th-grade spoken word poet at Auburn High School, has been writing spoken word poetry since sixth grade. She has placed third in The Golden Apple Talent Show. As the Youth Poet, Anderson hopes to use poetry to push through the stigma surrounding mental health and amplify the message that mental health matters. She also wants to show people of all ages that creativity has no age limit.
The Arts Council and the Rockford Public Library are developing programming and complimentary resources to provide the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet with opportunities to promote their personal work, host workshops for residents, and appear at important City events. The official honor of Poet Laureate is awarded for a period of two years and the Youth Poet honor is awarded for one year. Both positions are grant-funded.
The Rockford Area Arts Council's mission is to support, promote, and develop access to the arts for everyone. The Arts Council and its partners rely on important community partnerships to enhance honorary roles and engage a wider audience in the celebration of the art of poetry. The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois and Dr. Zak Dentistry continue to play important supportive roles for the City of Rockford Poet Laureate and Youth Poet programs.
The Poet Laureate Committee is established with representatives from the Arts Council, the City of Rockford, Rockford Public Library, and members of the city's arts and literary community. The Poetry Committee and Review Panel Members include Tom McNamara, City of Rockford; Laura Maher, City of Rockford; Lynn Stainbrook, Rockford Public Library; Mary Pat Muzzarelli, Rockford Public Library; Mary McNamara Bernsten, Rockford Area Arts Council; Kayla Acton, Rockford Area Arts Council; Emily Klonicki, Alignment Rockford; Christine Swanberg, Former City of Rockford Poet Laureate; William Gahan, Rockford University; Susan Porterfield, Poet Advisor at large; Aria Childers, Rockford Area Arts Council.
The public is invited to join in formally inducting Jenna Goldsmith as the City of Rockford's Poet Laureate and City of Rockford's Youth Poet Kaila Anderson at the City Council meeting on January 23rd at 5:30pm at Rockford City Hall. All are welcome to attend.