Ogden is searching for someone to serve as the poetic voice of the city.

Applications are open now until Oct. 1 for the first-ever position of a poet laureate, an official ambassador of literary culture in Ogden.

“The poet laureate will be our representative for poetic arts in the city,” said Patrick Ramsay, the Weber State University student who proposed the idea to the Ogden City Arts Committee. “The main focus is to engage people in the reading and writing of poetry.”

MBR
Ogden seeks its first poet laureate, for which applications are due for Oct 1. (Source: Tribune News Service)

The applicant elected as poet laureate will serve a two-year term, during which they will have the freedom to implement any plans they want.

Whatever they choose, though, Ramsay said it should be driven by the desire to connect people and neighborhoods. “The goal is to reach through the community,” Ramsay said, “and get people to feel like a bigger part of it.”

At a time when living poets are rarely household names, Ramsay said poetry is having its moment in Ogden. He credits Ogden’s dedication to the arts and the current state of the world.

“People are worried about our world and communities,” Ramsay said, “and how we’re relating to each other, whether it’s through gender, sexuality or race. It seems kind of scary right now, and poetry is a safe place for a lot of people.”

Kase Johnstun, literary chair for the Ogden City Arts Committee, said another major responsibility of the poet laureate will be expanding their reach in places where poets are in short supply or access to poetry is scarce.

While poetry is common at WSU, Johnstun said, not all other Ogden residents are so saturated by literature in their daily lives. WSU students can walk through a campus building and pick up a free copy of “Metaphor,” the annual undergraduate literary journal, but the shelves of chain grocery stores or gas stations aren’t often stocked with poetry easily accessible for the rest of the community.

“The poet laureate really needs to be able to transcend the academic boundaries that are put up between a university and community,” Johnstun said. “They’re not purposeful, it just happens. But we’d really like to connect them.”

Johnstun encouraged anyone who thinks they may be a good candidate to apply for the position, adding that a deep understanding of Ogden’s history and community is more important than a lofty record of published work.

“We really want people to be brave and to apply,” Johnstun said. “There’s quite a few people that probably look at this and say they’re not deserving; I disagree. We want people who really care about Ogden.”

The position will be mainly volunteer, but Laura Stott, an English instructor at WSU, said the title carries an impressive amount of power.

“It’s a way to really get some notice in the community,” Stott said, “and you can use that to reach more people.”

The poet laureate will make his or her first official appearance during the Mayor’s Awards in the Arts on Nov. 10.

A complete list of application requirements can be found on ogdencityarts.org.

“Ogden
has a unique story to tell,” Stott said. “I hope we have a poet laureate for
good and this will be continued for years to come.”

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