Durham Poet Laureate Pilot Program

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pilot Program Background 

In May 2021, at the request of City Council, the Durham Cultural Advisory Board (DCAB) received a presentation from local poets regarding creation of a Durham Poet Laureate. Poet Laureate programs are opportunities for jurisdictions or entities to formally recognize poets’ contributions to literary culture and society, while also providing educational opportunities to residents. Communities across North Carolina appoint or support poets laureate, who serve as advocates for the literary arts. In August 2021, after consideration during its June and July monthly meetings, DCAB leadership drafted a letter to recommend appointment of a Durham Poet Laureate. DCAB shared its letter of recommendation with City Council on August 29, 2021. City Council approved the Poet Laureate Pilot Program on October 4, 2021.  

The goal of the poet laureate pilot program is to champion the art of poetry and spoken word in the City of Durham, and provide free, educational opportunities for all.  

The selected Candidate(s) will: 

  • Champion the art of poetry and the spoken word in the City of Durham;  
  • Celebrate the city’s cultural heritage by attending literary and other cultural events;  
  • Be available to serve a one-year term beginning on July 1, 2022;  
  • Read poems at ceremonial events that will benefit the community, at City Council or other public meetings;  
  • Provide up to 5 - 10 public readings; and  
  • Host, lead, and implement at least three (3) hands-on educational opportunities for adults and children that are free and open to the public, which may include visits to public entities, schools and/or events for young people.  

The selected Durham Poet Laureate should be comfortable with teaching and interacting with community members and stakeholders as an ambassador of the City. Poets must have significant publication or published works and demonstrated previous commitment to promoting awareness of poetry.

Selected Candidate 

D.J. Rogers 

D.J. Rogers is a poet, spoken word artist, editorialist and essayist born and raised in the Triangle. Teaching poetry and facilitating workshops for nearly a decade in and around Durham, Rogers has been published in Black Nerd Problems Magazine, and Freezeray Press.  

D.J. Rogers' term as the Durham Poet Laureate will end on June 30, 2024. 


D.J. Rogers is a poet and spoken word artist born in Raleigh, NC and residing in Durham, NC. Rogers began writing poetry at 9 years old, after being exposed to the work of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance by his third grade assistant teacher, Ms. Morris. From there, Rogers entered various competitions and was published through his high school, and kept writing into his college years. At UNC Chapel Hill, he was in the creative writing program, graduating from its poetry track in 2011. In 2010, his life would change when two things happened: he entered his first poetry slam, at the behest of the management of the theater company where he was a work-study, and when he connected with the nonprofit, the Sacrificial Poets. After this, Rogers began performing and working as a teaching artist in earnest. In the process, he was part of the group Building Bonds, Breaking B.A.R.S., where he was part of the group’s inaugural year at UNC, and a part of Ebony Readers/Onyx Theatre, as spoken word collective in collaboration with UNC’s Black Student Movement. Rogers has appeared on national stages as a poet and educator, at the Individual World Poetry Slam and as an educator/coach for the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitation, or CUPSI. He has worked as an English Language Arts and Creative Writing teacher for the Orange County YMCA, Durham Public Schools, and the KIPP Network. His work can be found on Freezeray Press, Black NerdProblems, and forthcoming from Wingless Dreamer Press.


  • April 4 - May 6, 2022: Call for Poets 
  • April 15, 2022: Deadline for Nomination Process
  • May 11 - May 17, 2022: Selection Panel Meeting
  • May and/or June 2022: DCAB vote on recommendation from Selection Panel. DCAB recommendation shared with Mayor for consideration and appointment.
  • June 2022: Contracting
  • July 2022 - June 2023: Pilot Year
  • October/November 2022: DCAB Committee Program Evaluation


The Durham Poet Laureate Pilot Program used a Request for Qualification (RFQ) application process. The RFQ process opened on April 4, 2022. The Poet Laureate Candidate had to submit a RFQ to qualify, even if they were nominated by another individual. Submissions were to be received by May 6, 2022 at 3:00 PM EST via email to [email protected] with the subject line "RFQ: Durham Poet Laureate Pilot Program".

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For full details on the RFQ requirements and submission process, please read the full RFQ document located here: 

Request for Qualifications: Durham Poet Laureate Pilot Program

To view the Request for Qualifications in Spanish, please see below for a translated version of the RFQ document: 

Solicitud de Cualificaciones: Program Piloto Poeta Laureado de Durham

From the pool of RFQ applicants, a panel of community members, writers, artists, and City staff reviewed the artists' applications and recommend the Poet Laureate to Mayor O'Neal, after which the Mayor's appointee will serve a one-year term anticipated to begin July 1, 2022.


The selected Candidate will have a total budget of $5,000, including poet laureate/artist fees, community engagement, learning sessions, and documentation of the pilot program. The City of Durham will support the selected Candidate by coordinating and publicizing speaking events.


For information about the Durham Poet Laureate Pilot Program, please contact the Cultural & Public Art Program staff here: 

Rebecca Brown
Cultural & Public Arts Program Manager
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 919-560-4197, ext. 21245