Rockford Poet Laureate

City of Rockford Poet Laureate and Youth Laureate Program 

The Rockford Area Arts Council, in partnership with the Rockford Public Library and the City of Rockford, established the City of Rockford Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate in October, 2020. A City Poet Laureate is an honorary position; Poets Laureate promote literacy and literature among residents of all ages. The Arts Council and the Rockford Public Library develop programming, and complementary resources, to provide the recipient with opportunities to promote their personal work, host workshops for residents, and appear at important City events. The official honor of City of Rockford Poet Laureate, is awarded for a period of two years and is a grant-funded position. The City of Rockford Poet Laureate is awarded for a period of one year. 

Current City of Rockford Poet Laureate, 2021 and 2022: Christine Swanberg 

Christine Swanberg has an accomplished portfolio of publications and community engagement both within the Rockford Area and throughout the State of Illinois as an active poet, editor, educator, and columnist for over fifty years. She is the recipient of accolades, awards, and scholarships across the United States, including Midwest Poetry Review: (first prize), a merit scholarship to the Vermont Writers Program, and receipt of the Carl Sandburg fellowship. 

Christine has over 500 published works in 75 nationally recognized journals including: Spoon River Quarterly, American Aesthetic, Chiron, Avocet and others and has published several books through independent Chicago-based publishers. She has served on juries and committees for competitions and publications across the United States and has an extensive history of working with organizations in Rockford including: Rockford Writers’ Guild, Womanspace, Natural Land Institute, Severson Dells, Rockford Public Library, Midway Village, and others. 

Current City of Rockford Youth Laureate, 2021: Jocelyn Kuntz 

Jocelyn Kuntz is an energetic and talented young woman, involved in the literary arts in Rockford and in other arts endeavors across the Midwest. Her work has been published in The Rockford Review and she has performed readings of her work throughout the community at City Hall, Rockford Rotary Club, Severson Dells, Rockford Area Arts Council, and Nicholas Conservatory, among others. She has won multiple awards as a young writer the Rockford Writers’ Guild; she was also the Guild’s recommended nominee for Youth Poet Laureate.  

She also plays piano and is active in dance, martial arts, and boxing. She is civically engaged having regularly attended City of Rockford Council meetings and attending local protests, marches, and parades, including the “March for the Arts” parade in 2016. She hosts a variety of writing pop-ups throughout Rockford. 

Poet Laureate Requirements 

City of Rockford Poet Laureate nominees:  

  • Must be at least 21 years of age at the time of nomination, between 13-17 years old for the Youth Laureate 
  • Must be a resident of City of Rockford for at least 1 year prior to the nomination deadline and remain a resident throughout the two-year term, one-year term for Youth Laureate 
  • Must be committed to bringing poetry to a wide range of places and people 
  • Must be able and available to reach City of Rockford audiences through travel or other means 
  • Must exhibit exceptional work and will have demonstrated community engagement, and evidence of achievement in the art of poetry, including having a body of publicly accessible work (books, literary magazines, and/or digital media).   

The Poet Laureate Review Committee is established with representatives from the Arts Council, City of Rockford, Rockford Public Library, Regional University professors, and respected members of the city’s arts and literary community. 

Rockford Area Arts Council Executive Director, Mary McNamara Bernsten, says “A Rockford Poet Laureate is another opportunity for the arts community to celebrate its many faces. Art is a reflection of society and poets have a unique platform; their words are their paintbrush, their instrument, their voice. The Arts Council is delighted to work with the Library and the City in the development of this celebrated role.” 

“It’s with the greatest enthusiasm that Rockford Public Library supports this opportunity to celebrate this art form locally. Throughout history, great poets have inspired communities with shared ideas and well-crafted prose. It is with this understanding that we proudly support the Rockford Area Arts Council in choosing a Poet Laureate to represent the City of Rockford.” Lynn Stainbrook, Director, Rockford Public Library  

“Literacy and literature is a vital part of our social fabric and can help make us stronger as a community,” says Mayor Tom McNamara.  “I’m excited to help establish both an adult and youth Poet Laureate in Rockford and know they will have a profound impact on all of us.” 

“Being Poet Laureate made me realize I was capable of a larger voice. There is a more public utterance I can make as a poet.” –Rita Dove, former Poet Laureate and first African American Poet Laureate 

NOMINATION INFORMATION: Available summer, 2022 

In collaboration with the City and the Library, the Arts Council will provide our residents with the opportunity to nominate and apply for this celebrated role in our community.