DASHing Works in Motion

Page updated on May 13, 2017 at 9:15 AM

Poet Laureate Program 

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. 

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.

Jean Elliot, Poet Laureate, 1979-1999 

Mary McElveen. Poet Laureate, 2007-2010 

Amy Young, Poet Laureate, 2010-2013 

Tori Lane Kovarik, Poet Laureate, 2013-2016


Wendi R. Kaplan

Alexandria's Poet Laureate 2016 - 2019

PL Photo Wendi Kaplan

The Alexandria Commission for the Arts announced at their June 21 meeting, the appointment of  Wendi R. Kaplan to fulfill the role as Poet Laureate for the City of Alexandria.

Ms. Kaplan has been an Alexandria resident and community activist since 1982. She has been writing and reading poetry as long as she can remember. Ms. Kaplan’s poetry reflects her observations of the world, of nature, of people and of the exquisite awareness of the extraordinary in the present moment.
Ms. Kaplan is also a clinical social worker and certified poetry therapist who has worked in community services and has her own psychotherapy practice. She has taught at The American University and at The George Washington University School of Medicine. She weaves poetry through all of her work, from teaching and facilitating groups to her community activism.   Ms. Kaplan writes “Poetry Musings,” a quarterly column for the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work newsletter.
Ms. Kaplan brings a deep and abiding love of poetry to her position as Poet Laureate.  She enthusiastically shares poetry with family, friends, colleagues and community. She understands that in good times and hard times poetry brings joy, support, connection, and awareness. Ms. Kaplan brings poetry to people of all ages and teaches them to express themselves in writing, knowing that poetry gives people a voice, even when they feel they have none.
Ms. Kaplan believes that poetry illuminates life and that we are all poets. She looks forward to serving Alexandria by creating poetic conversations and events for people to find and share their poetic voices.

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.

City Council re-established the Poet Laureate program in 2006, and Mary McElveen was selected to fill the post. Ms. McElveen served as Poet Laureate from 2007-2010.  Ms. Young served as Poet Laureate from 2010 -2013; Tori Lane Kovarik served from 2013-2016; and Ryan Wojtanowski served from March 2016 – May 2016.  Prior to McElveen’s appointment, Jean Elliott, an Alexandria resident, served as the City’s “Poet in Residence” from 1979 until her death in 1999.

For more information, contact Cheryl Anne Colton, Regional Program Director, Office of the Arts, Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, at 703.746.5588 e-mail: poet@alexandriava.gov.

Ryan Wojtanowski
Alexandria's 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

"DASHing Words in Motion" Program 

DASHing Words in Motion

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 forty-seven submissions.  Wendi R. Kaplan, Poet Laureate, City of Alexandria and the winning poets: Susan Behnke, Michelle Berberet, F. Jane Cotton, Teddie Dyson, Betty Jo Middleton, and Bridget Gorman Wendling have their poems published inside the DASH buses and Trolleys in April and May. 

“DASHing Words in Motion” is a project of the Office of the Arts, a division of the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities along with the following collaborating partners: Alexandria Transit Company (DASH); Wendi R. Kaplan, the City of Alexandria Poet Laureate; Alexandria Commission for the Arts; and the Alexandria City Public Schools.

The City of Alexandria is committed to compliance with the City’s Human Rights Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act. To request a reasonable accommodation or to request materials in an alternative format, call Cheryl Anne Colton, Office of the Arts, at 703.746.5565 (VA Relay 711) or e-mail cherylanne.colton@alexandriava.gov

Winning Poets and their poems:

"2017 DASHing Words in Motion!"

"2016 DASHing Words in Motion!"

"2015 DASHing Words in Motion!"

"2014 DASHing Words in Motion!"