Literary Programs

Page updated on Dec 8, 2021 at 3:29 PM

City of Alexandria Searches for Poet Laureate

Deadline: January 10, 2022, 5 p.m. To submit an application click here.   

The City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts is in search of a Poet Laureate to promote an appreciation of poetry as an art form, promote creative writing and reading of literature, and promote literacy through poetry. The individual will serve as Poet Laureate for three years and receive a modest annual honorarium.

Individuals can nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else. Nominees must distinguish themselves in the field of poetry through the body of work created; be a resident of the City for a minimum of one year and maintain residency through the three-year term of service; must accept the Poet Laureate post as a ceremonial role, which includes presentations of work appropriate for all audiences; and be 18 years of age or older.  

Alexandria Poetry Contest - DASHing Words in Motion 

Deadline: January 14, 2022, 5 p.m. To submit poetry click here.

The “DASHing Words in Motion” poetry contest will bring recognition to writers, promotes an appreciation of poetry as an art form, and provides inspiration to individuals using the Alexandria Transit Company’s DASH Buses and Trolleys.  The competition is to encourage quality writing by writers 16 years or older, who live, work or study in the City of Alexandria, VA.  The “DASHing Words in Motion” program provides a venue for writers to display their poems.  The participation in the “DASHing Words in Motion” is voluntary.  Selected poets are not reimbursed for submittals or participation in the program. 

For additional about other Office of the Arts programs and services scroll through the Office of the Arts website: or email  

For reasonable disability accommodation, contact Cheryl Anne Colton  or call 703.746.5565, Virginia Relay 711.

DASHing Words in Motion

2021 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.

The winning poets were selected from 40 submissions. The poets are: Zeina Azzam, Susan Clark Behnke, James Colby, May-Mei Lee, Betty Jo Middleton, Charlene Murphy, Devin Reese, and veeteebee.  KaNikki Jakarta, Poet Laureate’s poem, along with the eight winning poets, will have their poems displayed inside the DASH buses and trolleys in April and May.  Bios, 2021 DASHing Words in Motion Poets.

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

"2021 DASHing Words in Motion"

"2020 DASHing Words in Motion"

"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 2019-2022 

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.

Poetry by KaNikki Jakarta


Patience Poet


A Community's Mission


Alexandria Connected

Alexandria The Beautiful

Benjamin Thomas Thompson - Tale of Two Names

Charles E. Beatley Library Birthday Poem

DASHing Words Poem - ON TIME 2020



Joseph McCoy Revamp

Mother Alexandria

NEVER FORGOTTEN, For the 1700 of Freemen's Cemetery


TAKING SOLACE IN SOLITUDE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             


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.  

Past Poet Laureates:

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, call Cheryl Anne Colton at 703.746.5565 or email

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