RICHMOND, Va. – Douglas Powell, known in the community under the stage name Roscoe Burnems, was selected as the first laureate of the city of Richmond.
Burnems, 35, is a poet, published author, spoken word artist, comedian and teacher. The national champion of straw poetry, a former TEDx speaker and founder of Writer’s Day Art Collective, hosted Tuesday Verses, one of the oldest black open microphones in the south.
“I write poetry to create challenging conversations and broaden perspectives,” Burnems said. “Whether it’s race, religion or mental health, my job is to educate, uplift humanity and tear down the walls that divide us as a community.”
The idea for the Richmond Poets Program came from Patty Parks, a human services worker and former librarian.
She noted that an increasing number of Richmond residents needed emotional and spiritual support in addition to physical or economic assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The laureate of the poet from Richmond should enjoy showing children, adolescents and adults the healing and regenerating power of the written word,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “Roscoe has repeatedly shown his interest in bringing poetry to people, and his list of ideas for engaged projects tells me he’s Richmonder for the job.”
The position will have a fee of $ 4,000 per year for a two-year term, with the first term running from January 2021 to December 2023. The royalties were made available by private donors, including Sally Brown, the Poe Museum and the North Avenue Library. , and according to the statement of the city does not use the funds of the city.
For his first project as a poet laureate, Burnems proposed blending poetry on murals throughout the city, holding spoken word competitions and a showcase for young people, and partnering with the Richmond Public Library System to host a series of accessible workshops.
“I can’t wait to start,” Burnems said.
Burnems said that during his career as a teaching artist, he learned how to show young people how to use poetry as a form of advocacy, agency and discovery, and as a therapeutic process.
“As a teenager, I fell in love with poetry.” Poetry has been a huge therapeutic force in my life and I want to give it back to the next generation of authors, “said Burnems. “When a writer can be vulnerable, connect with the reader and help him find something about himself, it excites me to poetry.”
Burnems lives with his family, including a 14-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, in Chesterfield County.
The position of laureate of the poet was open to anyone who has lived in Richmond or its surrounding counties for at least five years. “Demonstrating interest and capacity to engage the community” was Stoney’s selection priority, according to a press release.
Burnems will make his debut as a poet winner at the Poe Museum’s Birthday Bash, a virtual celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s 212th birthday. Burnems will discuss the role of the poet laureate, how Richmond shaped his poetry, and the ways in which the laureate will work with the community.
To learn more about Roscoe Burnems, visit its website roscoeb.webs.com.