To enhance the profile of poets, poetry, and literary arts in the ACC community and beyond, Athens established the community Poet Laureate program in 2021.

The intention of the Poet Laureate is to bring poetry to segments of the community that have traditionally had less access or exposure to poetry such as senior citizens or at-risk youth. Ultimately, the Poet Laureate program goal is to spike interest in poetry, teach writing poetry, and use poetry as a means of self-expression in Athens-Clarke County.

The Poet Laureate position is administered by the Leisure Services Arts Division with support from Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC). The Poet Laureate serves for a two-year term and is provided an honorarium of $2,000. A committee, comprised of art administrators, educators, librarians, and local poets review applications and select the final poet based on the following criteria: excellence in craftsmanship, vision for the position, professional achievement in the field of poetry, and a history of actively elevating the visibility of poetry in the community.

2024-2026 Poet Laureate – Mikhayla Robinson Smith

Mikhayla Robinson Smith is a poet, author, spoken word artist, and essayist, who has planted roots in Athens, Georgia. She studied English at the University of Georgia, which allowed her to explore and deepen her understanding of poetics. Her love for poetry and community has driven her desire to make poetic literature more accessible to the people of Athens. She hopes to share the freedom that she finds within words with others, and to prepare a table for those who may not have looked for liberation through them. She is also an educator and a mother, which has deepened her desire to make poetry more accessible for young people. As the first black, woman, poet laureate of Athens, she stands on the shoulders, and in a deep rooted tradition, of black women poets that come before her. She especially leans on Audre Lorde’s words: “Poetry is not a luxury.” She believes in the power of words, out of necessity, and has felt the beauty of what poetry can do. In this new role, she plans to be a bridge for the community, illuminating the necessity of poetry.

2021-2023 Poet Laureate – Jeff Fallis

Local educator, Jeff Fallis has lived in Athens since 1995 and studied under poets such as Coleman Barks and Kevin Young. Fallis has dreamed of how to “connect the literary world in Athens with its wild and vibrant music and visual arts scenes.” Fallis is known for his readings (sometimes as an opening act for local bands), co-curating the VOX Reading Series, educating students of all ages and even penned the introduction for a collection of poems by John Seawright. As the inaugural Poet Laureate, Fallis made many appearances at local events, even writing original poems to mark special occasions. View Program Review

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