Literary Programs

Page updated on Jul 10, 2019 at 1:40 PM

Celebrating Poetry Month in Alexandria

KaNikki Jakarta newly named Poet Laureate, City of Alexandria, invites all Alexandrians to participate in National Poetry Month activities throughout the month of April.   Schools, local businesses, libraries, and recreation centers will promote poetry writing and reading and encourage broad participation in the month-long celebration. 

The Academy of American Poets designated April as National Poetry Month to celebrate poetry and its ability to enrich everyday life. To learn more about National Poetry Month and the activities celebrated throughout the country, visit

DASHing Words in Motion

DASHing Words in Motion Poets Named:

The City of Alexandria Office of the Arts and the Alexandria Transit Company joined forces to host a poetry contest “DASHing Words in Motion.”   The poetry contest encouraged quality writing by writers and poets 16 years or older, who lived, worked or studied in the City of Alexandria.

Six poets were selected from 30 submissions. Wendi R. Kaplan, former Poet Laureate, City of Alexandria and the winning poets: Renee Adams, Susan Clarke Behnke, Jillinda Jill Glenn, Devin Reese, Molly Rufus, and Yerusalem Work will have their poems displayed inside the DASH buses and Trolleys in April and May. 

"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!"

Schedule for FREE Literary events:

“National Poem in Your Pocket Poetry Reading”
Friday, April 12, 6:30 p.m.—8 p.m.
The Athenaeum, 201 Prince St.

The City of Alexandria will celebrate an early national Poem in Your Pocket day.  Light refreshments.  Formal program begins at 7 p.m. This event is hosted by KaNikki Jakarta, Poet Laureate, Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association and the Office of the Arts. 

“Poetry Slam” 
Friday, April 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Durant Arts Center, 1605 Cameron St.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, KaNikki Jakarta, Poet Laureate, City of Alexandria will be hosting a Poetry Slam. “DASHing Words in Motion” Poets have been invited to also read their winning poetry that will be on the DASH buses and Trolleys in April and May,2018.  Light refreshments. Formal program begins at 7 p.m. 

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