Montgomery County Poets Laureate

The Annual Montgomery Poet Laureate Competition is the foundation upon which the MCPL Program was built. The competition is the ultimate expression of the program’s mission; creating an ever expanding community of poets, supporting their work and providing opportunities for poets to elevate their visibility while also benefiting the community with their service project, many of which continue long beyond their tenure.

How does the competition work?  

Each year MCPL recruits a celebrity poet with a national reputation, who along with two additional local Delaware Valley poets, adjudicate the submitted manuscripts.   

The newly selected Montgomery County Poet Laureate is honored with an award in the amount of $500 along with a personalized statement about their work, which is shared through MCPL and other local organizations.  

The Award is presented during an Award Ceremony and Reading, open to the public and attended by the celebrity judge and previous poets laureate to read with and welcome the newest member of their esteemed ranks.

Who can compete?  

Poets of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to submit their poetry for review and adjudication in the annual competition. Poets must also be residents of Montgomery County. The window for submissions generally opens in early December and closes mid-February with the winner to be announced at the end of March.  

The role of the Poet Laureate  

The Poet Laureate functions as an ambassador for poetry in Montgomery County from April 1 of the year of his/her naming to March 31st of the following year. This role includes working with MCPL’s Executive Director, Joanne Leva, to develop a schedule of readings, workshops and a community service project,  which is the cornerstone of the MCPL program. Community Service projects have created permanent resources and ongoing programming for our organization. 

Appearances may include the Forgotten Voices Poetry Group, Farley’s Bookshop First Thursday Poetry Reading Series, and the annual Caesura Poetry Festival. They may also hold the office of “writer-in residence” at the Indian Valley Arts Foundation. 

Jenny Burkholder, 2023 Montgomery County Poet Laureate

Poet Laureate 2023

Jenny Burkholder is a writer and teacher who lives and works in Elkins Park. Her poetry chapbook, Repaired, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Her poems have been published in Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & HealingNorth American Review, and The Maine Review, among others. Her creative nonfiction has been published in Epiphany, The Healing Muse, and So to Speak. Her awards include an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, the Glimmer Train October Poetry Open award, and a finalist for The James Hearst Poetry Prize. She teaches and practices yoga at Blue Banyan Yoga Studio & School in Philadelphia. You can read her poems, creative nonfiction, and blog at


As Marianne Moore asserts in her poem, To a Snail: “If ‘compression is the first grace of style,’/ you have it.” These pages transform thinking into feeling with extraordinary dexterity—and though they do so with the precision and voice of a doctor, their acts of inquiry are hardly clinical, rather highly emotionally charged in wanting to know. In this collection, I found thoughts being cherished without sentimentality, and poems sincerely aspirational in the word’s most root sense: to breathe. Alert and irreducible, these poems move as realized glimpses into the way we each struggle to stitch together our days, our ideas, and our hopes. They have a pulse, and demand that the reader detects it. “These songs ignite my rusty gears, my potholed bones./ I crack and swell with you when I move.”

Gilad Jaffe

2021 Celebrity Judge

Poets Laureate

MCPL 2017 Glenn McLaughlin

MCPL 2012 Liz Chang

MCPL 2011 Amy Small-McKinney

MCPL 2010 Grant Clauser

MCPL 2009 Doris Ferleger

MCPL 2008 Elizabeth Rivers

MCPL 2007 David Simpson

MCPL 2006 Deborah Fries

MCPL 2005 Sean Webb

MCPL 2004 Theresa Mendez-Quigley

MCPL 2003 Nicole Greaves

MCPL 2002 Jon Volkmer

MCPL 2000 Margaret Almon

MCPL 1999 Yolanda Wisher