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Durango Poet Laureate Program

The first Poet Laureate and Rising Poet Laureate in Durango, Colorado.


On December 1, 2023, the Durango Poet Laureate Program proudly unveiled the names of its inaugural laureates. Following a rigorous selection process, the Poet Laureate Committee, made up of volunteers from local organizations, is thrilled to introduce the 2024 Durango Poet Laureate and Durango Rising Poet Laureate for poets ages 12-17, who will take up their roles in January 2024.

After an overwhelming response from the community, with 33 nominations received for the Poet Laureate position and 12 applications for the Rising Poet Laureate, the selection committee embarked on a weeks-long review process. Top candidates were invited for meetings to discuss their passion for poetry and their vision for promoting the poetic arts in Durango.

The 2024 Durango Poet Laureate is Esther Belin, a distinguished poet who has lived in the Durango area since 1997, and has two single-volume poetry books published by the University of Arizona Press, one of which won the American Book Award in 2000. She was one of four editors of The Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature which won the American Book Award in 2022. She teaches at Fort Lewis College in the Native American & Indigenous Studies department, and is a faculty mentor in the Institute of American Indian Arts Creative Writing MFA program. Esther will serve a three-year term and will receive an annual stipend of $2,000 to leave a positive mark on the cultural landscape of Durango. “The best poetry is generated when the person releases the self and becomes a conduit to the free play of creativity and imagination. When people are guided into spaces of vulnerability and safety, poems that reflect on relationship, participation and contribution to society are achieved.,” she said. 

In addition, the Rising Poet Laureate for 2024 is Zoe Golden, a junior at Durango High School who has published poetry in the Cambridge Hall of Poetry Magazine, the Durango High School newspaper. She is a community bike coach for Everypedal, a member of the National Honors Society, and a member of Durango Climate Action. Zoe will serve a three-year term and will receive an annual stipend of $500. This exciting opportunity will allow Zoe to inspire and engage with young voices in the community, as she has already demonstrated through poetry readings at her school and at The Hive. “Poetry has changed my life and I believe it has the power to change the world,” she said. “Being the first Rising Poet Laureate of Durango is completely and utterly a dream, my dream, and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity as well as very excited to share the joy and journey of poetry with the community. While I will claim poetry as my best confidant throughout the years, poetry lingers and grows in everyone, belongs to everyone, and I am more than delighted to spark fires of poetry into the hearts of all here to listen.”

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