Dr. Holly Karapetkova, Professor of Literature and Languages at Marymount University and the Poet Laureate of Arlington County, has been selected for a 2022 American Academy of Poets Laureate Fellowship.
These $50,000 awards are given to honor poets of literary merit who have been appointed to serve in civic positions, and enable them to undertake meaningful, impactful and innovative projects that engage their fellow residents, including youth, with poetry, helping to address issues important to their communities as well as create new work.
The majority of the award money from the Fellowship will fund a project that Dr. Karapetkova had already put in motion – an Arlington Youth Poetry Anthology. With seed money from Arlington Arts, Dr. Karapetkova formed partnerships with DC’s hip hop-based educational nonprofit Words Beats Life and the local nonprofit and publisher Day Eight. Calls for submissions are scheduled to be issued later this summer. The anthology will be augmented by a series of readings and workshops featuring the published poets, as well as lesson plans and reading experiences designed to engage youth through poetry.
“As Poet Laureate, I feel a strong desire to lift up the voices of the youth in my community and to use poetry as a way to bring people together, to find a sense of community and healing,” Dr. Karapetkova said, taking note of the volatile political discourse and the pandemic that have marked recent years. “In times of distress, poetry provides a language for our hurt and frustration and an outlet for our expression of grief and anger. It can provide a means for healing.”
Serving as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts, Dr. Karapetkova’s charge is to raise Arlingtonians’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms. She has leaned into the work of encouraging and uplifting youth poets during her tenure. As such, with support from Words Beats Life, Dr. Karapetkova initiated an Arlington Youth Laureate, Charlotte Maleski, in February 2021. Kashvi Ramani assumes the title of Arlington Youth Laureate for 2022 – however, Maleski will continue as co-editor of the Anthology.
Dr. Karapetkova has spearheaded new projects such as Visual Verse, a month-long traveling exhibition which projected onto public buildings works by the poets laureate of the U.S., Virginia, Washington, D.C., and DC’s youth poet laureate. She adjudicated the adult iteration of Arlington’s Moving Words poetry competition, which places winning poems by local poets on Arlington Transit ART buses. Dr. Karapetkova also participated in poetry readings at events including the 2021 Rosslyn Jazz Festival and the 2022 Columbia Pike Blues Festival.
“Poetry has the power to capture the spirit and immediacy of the moment as powerfully as a photograph,” says Arlington Cultural Affairs Director Michelle Isabelle-Stark, who adds that the Academy’s honor speaks volumes about Dr. Karapetkova’s esteem in the field. “This Award will help support our Poet Laureate’s efforts to amplify the voices of the next generation of poets in Arlington and is a priceless gift to our community.”
Dr. Karapetkova is the author of two award-winning books of poetry – ‘Towline,’ winner of the 2016 Vern Rutsala Poetry Contest from Cloudbank Books, and ‘Words We Might One Day Say,’ winner of the 2010 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Award. Her poetry, prose and translations have appeared widely in print and online in places such as The Huffington Post, The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Nashville Review, Poetry Northwest and a variety of other outlets. She is also the author of over 20 children’s books.