Bucks County Poet Laureate
About the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program
The Bucks County Poet Laureate Contest, the oldest such program in the Commonwealth, was started in 1977 by the Bucks County Council on the Arts. From the beginning, the County Commissioners presented the laureate with a Proclamation, and the laureate read a poem at the weekly (now bi-monthly) meeting. A reception and reading was held at the Rodman House at the County Complex on Rt. 611.
In 1986, when the Arts Council’s activities were about to be subsumed by the Michener Art Center, Bucks County Community College was asked to assume sponsorship for the County. Stan Heim, the 1980 Laureate and professor in the Dept. of Language & Literature, became the Laureate Program Director. Heim continued the traditions started by the Council and in 1988 began the Bucks County High School Poet of the Year Contest. After Heim’s retirement from the College in 2001, Dr. Christopher Bursk, 1978 Laureate and professor in the College’s Language & Literature Dept., became Interim Director of the Program, succeeded in 2002 by Prof. Robert Bense, who served as Director for two years. In 2004, Dr. Allen Hoey, 2001 Laureate and professor in the Dept. of Language & Literature, became the Program’s Director. In recent years, Dr. Christopher Bursk served as Co-Director of the Program, first with Dr. Charlie Groth and then with Dr. Ethel Rackin, who assumed the Directorship in 2019. Laureates and runners-up are now invited to read on the Bucks County Community College campus for a reading and reception to celebrate the vitality of poetry in the County.
A résumé of past Laureates reveals a multitude of backgrounds, many awards, publications, and professional achievements. Included in these are Guggenheims, NEA, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships, Pennsylvania Professor of the Year, a Pew Foundation on the Arts grant, and more. The vision of the founding Council has been more than realized.
How to Enter
The open competition begins each summer with submissions due in September and the new Poet Laureate named in the fall.
Current Poet Laureate
Bucks County High School Poet of the Year
Ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth-grade students who live in Bucks County and/or attend Bucks County high schools are eligible to compete for this honor, awarded each spring.
Bucks County Poet Laureate Events and Publications
The current and former Bucks County Poet Laureates have recently formed an Advisory Council to promote poetry within the county. Watch this space for details of events and projects.
Written by working poets recognized for their art, this book of ready-to-use prompts gives teachers new, creative tools to encourage poetry writing in their classrooms. Senior and middle school students will learn from the examples presented by more than 20 local Poets Laureate.
Fire Up the Poems inspires creative expression, demonstrates the power of poetry to create change, and enables a wider understanding of ideas. Edited by Mary Jo LoBello Jerome, PL 2019, with Katherine Hahn Falk, PL 2017, Luray Gross, PL 2002, Laren McClung, PL 2016, and Ethel Rackin, Director of the PL Program at BCCC, the prompt anthology will eventually be made available online to a wider audience.
Writing Toward Closure - A Poetry Workshop
Please join us for this wonderful opportunity before the BCPL Reading and Reception on November 13. Confronting difficulties, whether personal or societal, can bring an opening or a messy realization, perhaps anything but an end; however, allowing words to flow without restraint can move us toward closure and peace.
Shawn R. Jones was born in Hartford, Connecticut and grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Womb Rain and A Hole to Breathe. Her work has appeared in Tri-Quarterly, New Ohio Review, River HeronReview, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and her poetry collection, Date of Birth, has won the 2022 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry and is forthcoming from Persea Books in 2023.
Scholarship in Memory of Dr. Allen Hoey
A scholarship is being established in memory of Dr. Allen Hoey, 2001 Bucks County Laureate, former Director of the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program, and fondly-remembered BCCC Language and Literature Department professor.