Program Overview

The Poet Populist program was first proposed to Jason Weeks, Executive Director of the Cambridge Arts Council, by City Councillor Brian Murphy in 2007 and was officially established and launched in the same year.  The project is modeled in part on Seattle, Washington’s Poet Populist project, which has been in place since 1999, and differs from other City's Poet Laureate programs in that the poet it not appointed by the City but rather voted on by the community

Purpose of the Program

Cambridge has a rich poetic history, with poets as diverse as Longfellow and E.E. Cummings calling the city home. The Poet Populist program will celebrate the City's close relationship with poetry by naming an individual to act as "literary ambassador" representing poetry to the city and the city to poetry.


Program Mission

• Celebrate poetry in general and specifically Cambridge poets and poet groups
• Highlighting local organizations and programs that feature poetry
• Connect with the City's youth and afterschool programs
• Create access to and understanding of poetry
• Further the appreciation of poetry and the "art of words" 


Difference between Poet Populist and Poet Laureate

A Poet Laureate is an individual appointed by the government. Historically, poets have held special positions in the courts of English royalty since medieval times. Poet Laureates in America have written beautiful pieces for the country and performed as the public face of this art for many years. For the Poet Populist program, our aim is to establish a dialogue between the poet and the people of Cambridge. The Poet Populist will be elected by and serve and the people of Cambridge, working closely with schools, libraries, and other community centers.


History of the Project

The project was first proposed to Jason Weeks, Executive Director of the Cambridge Arts Council, by City Councillor Brian Murphy in 2007. The project is modeled in part on Seattle, Washington's Poet Populist Project, which has been in place since 1999.