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 the LitLife event at Rosemont College in Bryn Mawr. The winner will be given an opportunity to read their work and speak to the audience composed of attendees of the day’s event which also features workshops and poetry readings including a Poetry Workshop conducted by the Celebrity Judge of the competition.

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, the Philadelphia Poetry Festival and the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. The Poet Laureate is asked to attend LitLife (both the year they are named, as well as the following year to discuss the experience). They may also hold the office of “writer-in residence” at the Indian Valley Arts Foundation. 

2020 Poet Laureate – David Gaines

Poet Laureate 2020

David Gaines

David Gaines is a writer, actor and educator born and raised in uptown Philadelphia. As a product of a traditional baptist household and a child of hip-hop culture, Dave uses his poetry to analyze and unpack how the performance of religion and gender intersect within his personal life and the greater Black community.

In 2017 he graduated with a BA in English from the Pennsylvania State University, where he became the first poet to perform at the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), won Best Poet at the Penn State Music Awards, and performed for household names such as MC Lyte and Nia Long. One year later he won multiple championship titles including 2017 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) Champion, 2018 Fuze Poetry Slam Champion, 2018 Philly Pigeon Champion, and ranked 4th in the nation in the 2018 Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2019, he toured over 20 colleges nationwide and began coaching the University of Pennsylvania’s 2020 CUPSI team.

On any given day, you can find Dave working on his debut chapbook, soft boy, or trying to break into the elusive world of professional yo-yo.

fine china by David Gaines

This collection took me back to childhood Sundays spent balancing duty and passion on the pews of a church. These poems slay demons of toxic masculinity, racism, and generational trauma. In this work, there is a yearning to be as free from social constructs as the goldfish that has leapt out of the bowl. And in the yearning is a voice that is coming home as much as it is breaking away.  

Yolanda Wisher

2020 Celebrity Judge

Past 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