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Houston Poet Laureate

Houston’s 2019 Poet Laureate: Leslie Contreras Schwartz

As the city's poet laureate, I want to hear about the experiences of Houstonians during this difficult time. Please share your experiences--frustrations, worry, sorrow or hope-- in lines of poetry, a sentence, a paragraph of your personal journey. These experiences can be shared anonymously. Houstonians of any age are welcome to submit.

Comments shared through this site will be curated to create a communal poem about the experiences of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Follow #HOUShelterInHope to see the progress of the project.  You can also share your experiences for this project by emailing, calling 832-387-5581 (a voicemail only number), or using the library form.

Houston’s 2019 Poet Laureate: Leslie Contreras Schwartz

Leslie Contreras Schwartz is the Houston Poet Laureate and a native Houstonian. She is a multi-genre writer whose third collection of poems, Who Speaks for Us Here, is scheduled for spring 2020 publication with Skull + Wind Press.
Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Anomaly, The Missouri Review, The Collagist, [PANK], Iowa Review, Verse Daily, and the anthology Xicanx: 21 Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century edited by ire’ne lara silva (University of Arizona, 2022), among others.
She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor's at Rice University. She teaches poetry workshops at Rice University, one focused on social justice poetics.
The Houston Poet Laureate Program is developed and coordinated by the Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. The Houston Poet Laureate Program is funded by the City of Houston City’s Initiative Grant Program.

Bayou City Broadsides

Bayou City Broadsides

Bayou City Broadsides is the community poetry project of Houston Poet Laureate Leslie Contreras Schwartz. The poetry broadsides, which are one-page artistic displays of lines from poems, will feature the poems of everyday Houstonians on the Houston Public Library web site and social media with the tagline #HoustonWeHavePoems.

What is a broadside? Traditionally broadsides were single-page one-side posters to share important news or for political and military information posted on doors in public spaces. Now they are used to create artistic displays of poems, either full poems or lines from poems, usually with illustrations or graphics that enhance the poem’s purpose.

Broadsides can be a simple hand-written page with an original poem, photographed and posted on social media, or if you are design savvy, can be created through design apps (like Canva, Snappa or other apps on your phone or online, and posted online as well.

Here are samples of both modern poetry broadsides and traditional poetry broadsides, for ideas on how to design your own mini graphic from poems or lines of your poem into a beautiful Instagram ready art piece.

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month (NPM) takes place every year in the month of April.  It's a time to celebrate poets, poetry, and the importance they have in our community.  Poetry offers us wisdom, uplifting ideas, and language that helps us reflect on our lives.  It also helps us to slow down and center ourselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in life.

Below are new broadsides put together specifically for NPM.  See more Poet Laureate news and the full text of each poem here!

Aliah Lavonne Tigh
One of the Better Sermons

by Aliah Lavonne Tigh
Sol Thomas
Dominican Earth

by Sol Thomas
Ron Starbuck
Entering the Wild Garden

by Ron Starbuck
Lily Wulfemeyer
A Ghazal Since I Don't Want To Go Under A Knife
by Lily Wulfemeyer
Natasha Carrizosa
From "Brown Paper Dolls For Hadji"
by Natasha Carrizosa
JD Pluecker
So Many (Excerpt)
by JD Pluecker
Nicole Smith
by Nicole Smith
Hope Ka-Faji
by Hope Ka-Faji
Deniz Lopez
by Deniz Lopez
Reyes Ramirez"A 4th Grade Dance Party In The Cafeteria On a Monday At 1PM..."
by Reyes Ramirez
Blanca Rodriguez Alanis
by Blanca Rodriguez Alanis
Benjamin Garcia
Warrior Song
by Benjamin Garcia

About the Houston Poet Laureate Program

The Houston Poet Laureate program

The Houston Poet Laureate program is coordinated by the Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA). The appointed poet serves a consecutive two-year term, working to foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms and make it accessible to the Houston community, as well as visitors, through expressions of culture through words.

Funding is made possible through the Hotel Occupancy Tax that is dedicated to the arts as part of the city’s cultural priorities guided by MOCA.

The guidelines and application portal for the Houston Poet Laureate and term requirements can be found at

Meet Our Past Poet Laureates

Debroah Mouton

Houston's 2017-2019 Poet Laureate is Debroah Mouton. She has published and performed poetry since the age of 19. She released her first full-length album in 2009 titled "The Unfinished Work of a Genius." Her sophomore album, "Beautiful Rebellion," was released in 2015, exploring more socially themed poems.

Deborah Mouton is Slammaster/Coach for the Houston VIP National Poetry Slam Team and a high school English teacher.

Dr. Robin Davidson

Houston’s 2015 - 2017 Poet Laureate is Dr. Robin Davidson. Her Community Outreach Project is the development of an anthology book of Houston residents’ favorite poetry. This project is modeled after former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky’s national Favorite Poem Project anthology, Americans’ Favorite Poems.​

Gwendolyn Zepeda

In April 2013, Mayor Annise D. Parker and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announced that award-winning author and poet Gwendolyn Zepeda was selected as Houston’s first Poet Laureate. Zepeda will serve a two-year term, April 2013 through April 2015.

As Houston’s Poet Laureate, Zepeda represents the city by creating excitement about poetry through outreach, programs, teaching and written work. Zepeda is committed to developing a Community Outreach project for Houston’s many diverse neighborhoods, as well as to local businesses. She has already held several poetry workshops and participated in HPL literary events.

Zepeda is a Houston-based author that is best-known for her works of fiction, including Growing Up with TamalesHouston, We Have a ProblemaLone Star Legend and Better with You Here. However, Zepeda is also an accomplished poet. She has several chapbooks and published poems to her name, she recently launched her new book of poetry: Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners.