Professor Holly Karapetkova becomes Arlington County’s second Poet Laureate

Dr. Holly Karapetkova, Professor of Literature & Languages at Marymount University and an award-winning poet and author, has been chosen as Arlington County’s second Poet Laureate.
During her two-year appointment, which will begin on July 1, she will serve as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts, while also working to raise local residents’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms. She will succeed Katherine E. Young, Arlington’s inaugural Poet Laureate, who was appointed in 2016.
“I’m very excited about taking on this role in representing poetry and the creative arts in our local community,” Karapetkova said. “Poetry is a powerful tool for us to engage with one another and with the world around us, something that is especially needed during this time of quarantine and isolation.”
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.
As Poet Laureate of Arlington County, Karapetkova will support literary programs and events throughout the year, including by serving as judge of the Moving Words competition, which is now in its 17th season of placing winning poems by local poets on Arlington Transit ART buses. She will also work with the County’s Cultural Affairs staff to develop and facilitate public programs to engage Arlington residents of all ages and backgrounds to bring poetry to a wider audience.
“I believe strongly in the public nature of poetry, and I believe poetry should be accessible and available to as many people as possible,” Karapetkova explained. “Poetry can bring people together, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs, and it can help to build empathy and understanding and inspire change and action for justice.”
“Poetry is a dynamic form, taking the language of its time and pushing its expressive limits,” added Michelle Isabelle-Stark, Cultural Affairs Director for Arlington County. “With social media changing the way we use language, it’s now easier than ever to write and share poems. Our new Poet Laureate will work with our community to awaken the poet in all of us.”
The open call for Poet Laureate was highly competitive, and entries were reviewed by award-winning author Kim Roberts and Cave Canem Fellow Alexa Patrick. In recognition of her new role, Karapetkova will receive an honorarium of $1,500 per year, provided through regular Cultural Affairs programming funds, and her name will be added to a commemorative plaque at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center in Courthouse Plaza.
Karapetkova holds a M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature, and currently lives in Arlington with her husband and two children. In addition to teaching Poetry at Marymount, she serves as the faculty literary advisor for Blueink, the University’s award-winning magazine of literature and art. Her current manuscript projects, Still Life With White and Planter’s Wife, grapple with the deep wounds left by our national history of racism, slavery and environmental destruction.
“While this is a particularly challenging time to take on the role of Poet Laureate, it’s also a time of great urgency when we need poetry more than ever,” Karapetkova said. “I am hoping to bring poetry into the community in a way that will help us connect with one another, have difficult conversations and heal from the wounds that the twin viruses – COVID-19 and racism – have left on our community.”
Click here to visit her website and view her full portfolio.