Literary Programs

Page updated on Nov 25, 2019 at 8:43 AM

DASHing Words in Motion

DASHing Words in Motion - Alexandria Poetry Contest

The City of Alexandria's Arts Division and the Alexandria Transit Company have joined forces to host a poetry contest “DASHing Words in Motion.”  The poetry contest encourages quality writing by writers and poets 16 years or older, who live, work or study in the City of Alexandria.

The competition’s primary goal is to encourage a broad range of ideas and subject matter. Possible inspirational ideas might stem from the Alexandria Transit Company’s DASH bus' motto “Keep Alexandria Moving,” or bus stops, neighborhoods, buses, cars, roads, or transportation. Other modes of transportation in Alexandria and the region will also be considered. Winning poems will be published and placed on DASH buses and trolleys for the 2020 National Poetry Month (April).

Online submission are now being accepted. The online submission deadline for the DASHing Words in Motion is Monday, February 3, 2020 (close of business).    

For additional about the literary and Poet Laureate programs, email the Poet Laureate at; or call Cheryl Anne Colton, Regional Program Director, Arts Division at 703.746.5565.

"DASHing Words in Motion" Winning Poets and their poems:

"2019 DASHing Words in Motion"

"2108 DASHing Words in Motion"

"2017 DASHing Words in Motion!"

"2016 DASHing Words in Motion!"

"2015 DASHing Words in Motion!"

"2014 DASHing Words in Motion!"

Poet Laureate Program 


KaNikki Jakarta

Poet Laureate 2019-2021

The Office of the Arts announces the appointment of KaNikki Jakarta as the new Poet Laureate.  Ms. Jakarta replaces Wendi Kaplan whose term as Poet Laureate ends at the end of March.

Ms. Jakarta is an award-winning Performance Poet who has toured the US and UK performing poetry. KaNikki founded, facilitated, and/or hosted 15 presentations in the last 17 years ranging from open mics, award ceremonies, conferences, and workshops. With over 26 years of writing and almost 2 decades on the poetry scene, KaNikki has opened for Jill Scott, Raheem DaVaughn, and Lyfe Jennings. She has authored 3 works of fiction, 2 poetry collections, a poetry cd, and a memoir. She aims to utilize her Public Relations/Marketing Degree and love for the arts to promote creative writing, reading of literature, and literacy with poetry. KaNikki is an advocate for the art of poetry and believes that positive poetry can connect people from all walks of life. She brings to the role of poet laureate a passion to create platforms of safe spaces to highlight the talents of other artists. Ms. Jakarta writes and recites what she calls “real life fiction.” She says, “If you think something I say on the microphone may change your life; you’re probably right.”

The role of the City's Poet Laureate is to promote appreciation of poetry as an art form; to encourage creative writing and reading of all forms of literature; and to promote literacy through poetry. The Poet Laureate serves a three year term.

Wendi R. Kaplan, 2016-2019
Ryan Wojtanowski, 2016
Tori Lane Kovarik, 2013-2016
Amy Young, 2010-2013 
Mary McElveen. 2007-2010 
Jean Elliot, 1979-1999 

For additional about the Poet Laureate and other literary programs, email the Poet Laureate at; or call Cheryl Anne Colton at 703.746.5565, email

For reasonable disability accommodation, contact or 703.746.5565, Virginia Relay 711.

Wendi R. Kaplan
Poet Laureate 2016 - 2019

Wendi R. Kaplan was appointed to serve a three-year term as Poet Laureate in 2016, and during her tenure, she wrote original poems for the Annual USA/Alexandria Birthday and Earth Day Celebrations; the American Arabesque: A Celebration of Culture; and the annual Youth Arts Festival; and,

Wendi Kaplan’s outreach activities included serving as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the Alexandria City Public School’s Poetry Competition for the elementary, middle and high school poets and poet laureates; judging 12 poetry competitions including writing “For the Love of Country” with the Alexandria City Public Library, and the PTA Reflections Program.  She presented 61 poetry readings; facilitated 17 poetry writing workshops focused on building bridges, diversity, inclusion, community, finding light in the dark, dreams, teens and their dreams.  She also wrote 8 articles in the Alexandria Gazette Packet to bring the awareness and appreciation of poetry to its readers; collaborated with musicians, dancers and community activists to present community art and interactive art installations.  

Poetry workshops introduced by Wendi R. Kaplan were “Generating Hope!” “Honoring Mothers through Poetry;” “Voices of Hope and Love: Building Bridges with Poetry;” and, “Celebrating Pride and Diversity.”  Ms. Kaplan’s contributions for promoting poetry and the literary arts in our City during her tenure is truly appreciated.

In 2004, then Councilman Ludwig Gaines proposed the designation of a Poet Laureate for the City of Alexandria. In response, a steering committee of citizens and City staff was established to develop a protocol for selecting a Poet Laureate. On April 25, 2006, City Council received the proposal submitted by the steering committee. Following a public hearing on May 20, 2006, City Council unanimously approved the establishment of the Poet Laureate program.  

Ryan Wojtanowski

Poet Laureate March 2016-May 2016

It is with a heavy heart that Alexandria Commission for the Arts reports the unfortunate news of the passing of Ryan Wojtanowski.  Prayers and thoughts are with Ryan’s wife and family.

Ryan’s contributions as Poet Laureate are appreciated. Although his tenure as Poet Laureate was short, in his role he as Poet Laureate he taught a poetry class at the Blessed Sacrament School.  He made a public presentation for National Poetry Month on April 21 Poetry event at the Athenaeum.  He also wrote and presented poems on April 30 for the Alexandria Earth Day Celebration and on May 15-17 for the Hokule’a - a replica of a Polynesian deep sea voyaging canoe - when it stopped in Alexandria. 

Poems,  Alexandria Earth Day, April 30, 2016